September 24, 2007

by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Coming into his bout at UFC 76, Diego Sanchez had already gone through much just to make it to his fight with Jon Fitch.

Sanchez, who was coming off of his first professional loss at the hands of rival Josh Koscheck at UFC 69, was rumored after the bout to possibly have been infected with Hepatitis and he had actually contemplated retirement.

As it turns out, Sanchez actually had a staph infection that opened a softball-sized hole on his thigh after the fight with Koscheck.

The former Ultimate Fighter winner also recently changed camps, leaving Greg Jackson’s team from New Mexico, and relocated to San Diego to work primarily with boxing coach Rob Garcia.

Through all the uprooting, Sanchez remained focused on his goal, which was to get back to the top of the welterweight division. His first test was Jon Fitch.

After a three-round fight, the judges gave the decision to Fitch, handing Diego Sanchez not only a loss, but also the second in a row for him, something he’s obviously never tasted before.

The bout went to a split decision, but Sanchez commented that he believes Fitch deserved the win.

“I feel that he beat me fair and square, but I was close, but close isn’t close enough,” Sanchez said about the fight. “I’m just going to have to go back to work, get stronger, come back and fight again. All the fighters go through their losses, and this happens to be my second loss. I’m just going to come back stronger. That’s the only way I can take it.”

The fight was back and forth throughout with Sanchez using his jiu-jitsu game from the bottom to go for multiple submissions, but Fitch was seemingly strong enough to avoid any real danger in the exchanges. The strength difference even brought about contemplation from Sanchez about dropping to the UFC’s lightweight division.

“Once he got slippery it made it easy for him to pull out of some of my submissions,” said Sanchez. “I give Jon all the credit tonight. I went in there and I fought hard and it wasn’t my night. It was Jon’s night.

“I know I’m going to come back strong. I’m contemplating in my mind whether I’m going to drop to 55 (155 lbs.) or not because I really am a smaller welterweight. It’s either that or start power lifting and get a little stronger because I did feel a little bit not as strong in there as I should have been.”

When he was on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Sanchez competed and won the competition’s 185 lb. weight class by defeating Kenny Florian, who now competes at 155 lbs. Many of the show’s fighters have chosen to drop to lighter weight classes to give them a competitive advantage and Sanchez may have one more drop to go.

“I’ve got to really think about it. It’s something that I’ve got to give some serious thought,” stated Sanchez about the possible move to lightweight.

“I like fighting the guys at 170. I’m not afraid of any of the guys. It’s not like I want to drop down like that, but the 155 lbers. are just as dangerous as the 170 lbers. It’s just something that I have to think about. I want to fight BJ Penn.”

With the back-to-back losses looming overhead and a growing welterweight division, will Sanchez opt to do what so many other fighters have done and move down a weight class to become more competitive?

Only Diego Sanchez knows the answer to that one.