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‘I’m checking out of this game’ - Diego Sanchez looking for a ‘retirement fight’

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The first Ultimate Fighter winner and former lightweight title contender sounds like he’s just about done with his MMA career.

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UFC 253 Adesanya v Costa: Weigh-Ins Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

When Diego Sanchez won the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, he’d been competing as a pro for just 3 years. Skip ahead to 2020 and Sanchez is one of MMA’s most experienced veterans, and one of the UFC’s longest tenured talents.

Other notable’s from the promotion’s first toe dip into reality television include Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick, Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, and Chris Leben. Of all those, Koscheck has been the only one to put foot in a cage in the last 5 years—taking on Mauricio Alonso at Bellator 172, two years after his last UFC bout in 2015 (Leben did make a brief run at bareknuckle boxing in 2018-19). By all accounts, among his peers, Diego Sanchez’s longevity among the elite has been unparalleled.

Still, all things must come to an end. And while Sanchez has still yet to lose more than two bouts in a row, his recent performances have looked notably lackluster. Despite getting well into the third round in each of his last three fights, Sanchez only landed 57 significant strikes between in those bouts combined. Michel Pereira’s DQ due to an illegal knee is almost assuredly all that’s saved him from his first three-loss skid.

Perhaps, then, it’s that kind of math that has Sanchez taking a real hard look at retirement. In a recent Instagram post, the ‘Nightmare’ told fans that “the end of this fighting lifestyle approaches very soon,” and suggested that his next fight would likely be his last.

Speaking to the media after Sanchez’s recent unanimous decision loss to Jake Matthews, Dana White backed up the idea that it may be time for the former Jackson-Wink talent to call it a day.

“I love Diego Sanchez, and I don’t know,” White told reporters. “It’s something I’ve got to think about, and it’s obviously something that I’ve got to talk to the guys about back when we get home in the office and see what everybody thinks. I got these guys now – you got Diego Sanchez, who fights his heart out every time he fights, he was part of ‘TUF 1,’ everybody knows how I feel about those guys, and he’s just a great person...

...But Diego is like – I want to say, I don’t know for sure off the top of my head, but he’s won three of his last five or something like that, but yeah it’s tough. It’s the not fun part of this job.”

Exactly who or when Sanchez may fight next is entirely up in the air. But assuming he does get booked again, it sounds like it just might be for the last time.