Diego Sanchez is a man at peace with his life and what the future holds.
In a world of chaos and trauma, this has not always been the case.
For 15 years, and 31 UFC fights, Sanchez has chased what has turned out to be an impossible dream with a fighting style not suited to longevity and self preservation.
But now the cloak of immortality he seemed to carry has been laid down, and the reality of his career being finite acknowledged.
When the 38-year-old steps into the Octagon with Jake Matthews this weekend at UFC 253 in Abu Dhabi it will be the first of a four-fight conclusion to what has been a quite-incredible stint in MMA’s premier organisation.
“I have come full circle in life and I’m in a really good place,” explains the Albuquerque native when speaking to Sport360. “I am comfortable in the situation that is my life.
“With these four fights I have on my contract I am realistic and honest with myself. I know I can’t fight forever, and I want to start this tunnel that is these last four fights and I want to come out the other side with my health, my mind and my speech.
“I took the invisible pressure of wanting to be UFC champion away and when I did I felt light, and I feel free.
“I am doing this for the experience and to achieve the task in hand, and that is being victorious in these last four fights. That starts on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi and I am ready, prepared and excited.
Sanchez, the middleweight winner on the first series of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2005, acknowledges he now sees light at the end of the tunnel and admits to there being an element of relief when it comes to hanging up his gloves.
He says: “I am the light that is in the tunnel and I am lighting that tunnel bright. There is light coming out of both sides of this tunnel.
“Any way you look at it I am just happy to finish this job – because it is a hard job. Being a UFC fighter is not easy, it takes a lot of sacrifice, time, energy, and hard work.
“It comes with emotional and physical traumas. And it took a lot of self-healing for me to come through those traumas and right now I feel like I have a clean slate and have these last four fight to do what I do and put the final stamp on my legacy.
“It is like I am finishing this book, and when I am done with this one I am going to start another one. That next book is going to be all about the positive side of health, healing, helping, and what I can give back to humanity.
“This fighting stuff, it’s a lot of pain and hurt. You are breaking faces and causing trauma on other human beings, so now when I come out of the tunnel it is going to be all love and light and I am going to do my best to help change one person at a time.”
In the latter part of Sanchez’s career much has been made of his relationship with ‘guru’ Joshua Fabia. The School of Self Awareness founder is a polarising figure in the MMA community, receiving criticism for his perceived lack of real MMA knowledge and the fact he was the sole corner-man for Sanchez’s last fight – a DQ win over Michael Pereira in February.
The connection between the pair is obvious, but there is now a third member of the team in fellow TUF series one alumni Stephan Bonnar.
The mutual bond and respect with Bonnar has paid dividends in Sanchez’s training, with Diego happy to reciprocate.
He says: “It all goes back to the mentorship I have had. I have been mentored by Joshua Fabia, and it is that mentorship that that has helped my express this type of love I have received, and now I get to give it back to Stephan.
“It is a chain reaction, and what I am doing with the School of Self Awareness is my career after the UFC.
“I am happy and fell really blessed. I have lived a life and endured things that others have not been able to do.
“I have showed great longevity and endurance in my UFC career and I continue to do so. I am just making the most of what I have got and doing the best I can do, and I can promise I will leave everything I have got in the Octagon.
“I am bringing energy and I am not taking any of it home.”
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