Diego Sanchez’s work with School of Self Awareness gym owner Joshua Fabia has been one of the stranger stories in MMA over the past several months. Footage and stories of bizarre interactions between Fabia, UFC officials, other fighters, and even media members have been finding their way into the public discourse with greater and greater frequency surrounding the recent decision from the world’s largest MMA organization to buy out the rest of the ‘Nightmare’’s contract and release him to the open market.
One of the stranger things to come up has been a video of Sanchez training with Fabia, where Fabia appears to be using the former TUF champ as a makeshift heavybag, slapping his head and throwing light kicks as Sanchez hangs, suspended upside down.
Asks for his medical records but throws strikes at him as he’s suspended upside down. Ok. Think we need to look at your records, Fabia. pic.twitter.com/XAhL5CMfiA— MS (@UFC_Obsessed) May 8, 2021
In a conversation apparently recorded back in late March, with UFC vet and AKA Thailand co-owner Mike Swick, Fabia gave some insight into his training philosophy, and why he felt it was a necessary part of Sanchez’s preparation to take strikes.
“So, you got guys that are at the highest level – some of the guys at the highest level – yet they got huge holes in their game, of ‘I don’t want to move out of the way of an attack,’ which is crazy talk, ‘because I don’t respect this guy’s power.’” Fabia told Swick, coming off a rant about how coaches don’t take enough responsibility for their fighters’ losses. “Okay, if you don’t respect it, then you better have your hands in the right place. That’s it. You better know how to blend and parry, you better know how to roll it, you better know how to absorb strikes.
“So, I’m seeing guys get knocked out like nothing, yet I never see any of them training getting hit. So, Diego, I hit Diego 20 minutes a day. 20 minutes a day, I hit him, so his body understands impact. These fighters are thinking they’re never going to get fucking hit, and when they do, it gets them emotional. It gets them all these other things. They start feeling like it’s a failure, versus ‘That’s what’s supposed to happen in here, crazy. Calm down.’ And if you actually master that skill, the fear and anxiety that’s making you rush or hesitate won’t be there. It really will be blended out.
“And, the ability to understand when to exhale and when to breath – to escape and move in – will give you enough oxygen in your brain to make a coherent decision, not a just reactive decision. Because sometimes – Dustin is a perfect example of this – Dustin has a beautiful pause, positioning in his strikes to just see how the other guy is reacting, to know where to place the next strike. But there’s a subtleness, because if you’re rushing a blind combination, where the guy’s just holding pads there and lets you do it, you’re just hoping it makes contact. You can’t make those micro-adjustments like Dustin is doing. You just can’t. That comes from being able to breath in that moment.
“And you know as well as I know one breath behind,” Fabia continued, “you start falling behind on each one of those exchanges. And after the second one, the third one, you start feeling desperate; start making bad decisions. And now you’re putting yourself in this space where you didn’t need to. Now it’s whose faster, who’s stronger. All your gameplan goes out the door, because you don’t want the judge to see this direction. You don’t want to see any of that. And that’s where fighters are hurting themselves a lot.
“And that’s where the coaches are not helping, in a lot of ways, because they want them to win the round in that fashion—the old way that Diego was getting credit for fighting with just heart. Just go out there, if you fight that way, you can’t lose. Well, I’m telling you now, 10 years later, with brain damage, you can. And Gaethje and all those wars, trust me, it’ll be a thing. You can see the wars that Tony Ferguson has gone through now. You can see the effects of these things.”
Fabia then turned his attention to CTE, UFC rankings, judging, and a whole range of other topics. It’s unclear at this point, when Sanchez will get to put Fabia’s training philosophies into practice again, now that he’s no longer in the UFC. Sanchez last fought to a unanimous decision loss against Jake Matthews at UFC 253 in September of last year. That defeat, along with a lopsided drubbing from Michael Chiesa, sandwiched a DQ win over Michel Pereira.