By all accounts, Marcin Held prepared well for Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 98. Sanchez, however, prepared for two opponents – Held, and Mexico City, Mexico’s 7,000’+ elevation and polluted air. Training at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico at 5,000’+ was an advantage.
“always read about Mexico City, and I saw the fight with Cain and how he gassed out,” said Sanchez afterward, as compiled by Steven Marrocco and Fernanda Prates for MMAjunkie. “It really is the hardest city to fight in in the world.”
“It just takes your cardio away. Tonight, the Mexican fans gave me a second and a third wind. It was something I’ll never forget in my life, hearing the fans cheering my name. It was a dream come true.”
To reach the dream, The Nightmare had to employ a wild guillotine escape.
“That was completely instinctual,” explained Sanchez. “I have that never-say-die mentality. I wasn’t tapping out.
“It was a deep choke, and it hurt my throat. I had an icepack on it earlier. He got me with a hard choke. My coaches always told me to find a way, and that’s what I did.”
Another thing Sanchez had to get past to reach Saturday’s dream win was the first-round KO loss to Joe Lauzon at UFC 200.
“It was just one of those losses where I was at my best, and I got caught with a punch I couldn’t see, and there was no time to recover,” said Sanchez. “It was the first time in my career where I was hurt like that. And to come back, I had to let it go. I had to leave it in the past and move forward.
“The first two months were hard. Then I was able to sign this fight and get motivated.”
“I continue to learn and continue to evolve. A lot of fans say, ‘Oh, you’ve got to bring back the old Diego, the old ‘Nightmare.’ I tell them no. In this sport, you have to continue to learn or else you will not be able to stick around the way I’ve stuck around in this sport.”