There have been a lot of changes in Diego Sanchez’s life over the last year.
The former “Ultimate Fighter” winner returned to his training roots when he moved back home to New Mexico and started training again under the tutelage of coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. He also returned to the welterweight division, where he recently picked up a huge win over Paulo Thiago.
Now Sanchez is growing up both physically and mentally, and with his training improved, he says his days at lightweight are done. He will now only be competing at 170 pounds.
“The options are closed for me to ever go down to 155 again,” he confirmed on Tuesday.
Sanchez at one time fought for the UFC lightweight title, but with recent changes to his strength and conditioning program, he’s putting on more muscle and doesn’t want to lose the power he’s gaining by fighting at the bigger weight class.
“Something I did, I brought in an Olympic wrestler, Willie Parks, and he’s a big 185-pounder, but he’s about an inch taller than me. He’s really big on lifting weights, so we lift weights every day after practice, and we hit it hard,” Sanchez said.
“That’s the things we do on top of our training.”
Parks is the head wrestling coach at Team Jackson MMA, and a former Olympic wrestling hopeful as well as working for the legendary wrestling program at Iowa State.
Sanchez says now with Parks on his side, and the extra work they’ve been doing, adding strength has been a main goal. Cutting to 155 pounds just isn’t realistic anymore.
“It’s been real motivating for me to be real strong,” Sanchez commented. “Cause in my last fight, I was really prepared I worked hard, but I wasn’t physically strong and that’s something you’ve got to have being a welterweight. That’s something I really worked on in this training camp.”
Beyond giving up fighting at 155 pounds, Sanchez has also moved on from something that he’s carried with him since the earliest parts of his career… his nickname.
Sanchez has been known as the “Nightmare” for several years, but with the new path he’s walking, he has now left that nickname behind along with his old life that he abandoned.
“I let that go, I let the ‘Nightmare’ go,” Sanchez said. “To me, I see some negative in it. Nightmare, it’s something negative and I don’t like it, kind of evil, and I don’t like it. I don’t want to represent that. I want to represent positivity and I want to represent the good.”
A personal battle with his own demons also led to Sanchez walking away from his nickname. While he admits he’s toyed with changing his new moniker to “The Dream,” for now, he’ll just be Diego Sanchez.
“I was my own nightmare,” Sanchez said. “All the times that I fell off track and got into drinking, and got into smoking weed, and things that brought me down. That was my nightmare. I was my own nightmare. I’ve grown up and I’m going to let that name go. I’m just going to be Diego Sanchez; I don’t even need a nickname.”
The new Diego Sanchez will see if all the changes continue to pay off when he faces Martin Kampmann in the main event of UFC on Versus 3 next week in Louisville, Ky.