Nightmare revisited: Diego Sanchez TUF 9 Finale interview exclusive with MMAmania.com

A nightmare is a dream that causes an unpleasant emotional response for the sleeper, typically fear or horror, as well as being in situations of extreme danger, or the sensations of pain, bad events, falling, drowning or even death.

For the UFC's lightweight fighters, that pretty much sums up the arrival of Diego Sanchez to the 155-pound division.

Sanchez, a former welterweight contender and middleweight winner on the pioneering season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), "Nightmare" made a name for himself by abusing current lightweight number one contender Kenny Florian with some vicious ground and pound in the first round of their April 2005 fight.

Diego followed that up by winning his next five fights in dominating fashion. His victory over Karo Parisyan was a tipping point in his career and considered by many to be one of the better fights in Zuffa's young history.

However, the year 2007 became a nightmare for Sanchez as he would go on to drop back-to-back decisions to former TUF rival Josh Koscheck and fellow American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) standout Jon Fitch.

While Sanchez rebounded by winning his next two fights in impressive fashion, he realized a change in his pattern was in order. That change materialized after he dropped down to lightweight to fulfilling his dream of winning a UFC title.

Sanchez went to work by taking on Joe Stevenson in the main event at UFC 95. Many expected him to end the fight early if he wanted to validate his place in the division, but the venerable Stevenson held on for a trip -- albeit a losing one -- to the judges scorecards.

"The Nightmare" now looks to build off that decision win and impress upon the division that he is a future title holder. His fight with Clay Guida this weekend at TUF 9 Finale will go a long way toward validating that notion. Guida is seen by many as the proverbial gatekeeper, but "The Carpenter" is looking to distance himself from that scarlet brand and secure a future title shot of his own with a win over Sanchez.

Sanchez took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his fight with Guida, submitting Demian Maia, his destiny to be lightweight champion and why his upcoming bout could be as good as his fight with "The Heat."

Take a look:

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Take us back to TUF 1. What are your thoughts on that experience four years later?

Diego Sanchez: That show was a true blessing for me. It was a perfect opportunity for me and I jumped on it. I went into the show with the mentality that I was going to win. I went in there and was able to dominate and was crowned the first-ever UFC Ultimate Fighter winner. I went on after that and have had a great career with the UFC. It has set the tone for everything that I had done and will be able to do.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): What are your thoughts on the TUF brand?

Diego Sanchez: Personally, I think it has been awesome. It is actually one of my favorite shows to watch. Watching it brings back memories of when I was on the show. It has skyrocketed mixed martial arts into a fan base that it never would have attained without the Ultimate Fighter. Whatever you think of the show, we owe a lot to what it’s done for the sport.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Your fight on the TUF 9 Finale will be your second fight at lightweight. Much was made about your weight cut for that first lightweight fight. How did your second weight cut go compared to the first time?

Diego Sanchez: It has been phenomenal this time around. I was able to focus on keeping my strength. I was to do a lot of things different. In my first camp for lightweight I had to really work on cutting the weight and did a lot of boxing. In this camp I pushed myself with hard training partners that helped me with my ground skills a lot.

I was promoted to brown belt by Saulo Ribeiro, a legend in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It has been such a better experience this time around. I am ready to get into the Octagon and execute my game plan efficiently.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): What was the final factor in you dropping down to compete at lightweight? Did you feel it was your best shot at winning a UFC title with much bigger guys like St. Pierre and Thiago Alves at the top of the division?

Diego Sanchez: The ultimate factor was that I got into the cage with Kenny Florian on the original Ultimate Fighter and beat him up. Now he is coming up on his second title shot -- that tells me something. I want my title shot so I made the commitment to cut the weight so I can go on to realize my dream of being a UFC champion.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Not to look past a tough opponent in Clay Guida, but do you feel like having wins over Stevenson and Guida is enough to earn a title shot? If Kenny Florian loses at UFC 101 do you want to fight him first?

Diego Sanchez: I want to fight both Kenny Florian and B.J. Penn. I want a title shot … that is the ultimate. If I win my fight with Clay in impressive fashion and Dana White says he is putting me in a title shot I am ready. I am even going to be ready if B.J. Penn decides to pull out of the fight. You never know with B.J. Also, if either one happens to get injured.

I will be ready for my title fight whenever it happens. This is why I do this, because I want to be a champion. Fighters live to prove themselves, to challenge themselves. I will prove that I am the best fighter at 155 pounds.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Clay Guida is known for his great cardio and wrestling. How will you counter the wrestling of Clay Guida? Will you stand and outstrike him or will you let the fight go to the ground and use your grappling to win the fight there. Also, how does your meditation factor into the fight?

Diego Sanchez: I will go with the flow. In my training I go over every single situation and scenario -- both the ground game and the stand up game. Then I go over every situation and scenario mentally. I go over it and over it in my meditation/visualization. I prepare myself mentally for it all, even the bad situations. Once I get into the fight I just let all of that go. I just ‘be natural’ and let the fight flow. I fight with my spirit man. I trust in my faith in Jesus Christ that I am his warrior for him in that cage.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): There is a rumor going around that you submitted Demian Maia. What is that about?

Diego Sanchez: I did not submit Maia in competition. We were training together in England and were doing a three, five minute round session. In the first round he caught me in a rear naked choke. So we were really rolling, we weren’t just play rolling. In the second round I caught him in a kimura during a transition. I have caught other guys in training. It happens. I have caught Jake Shields. I have caught everyone I have rolled with from Nate Marquardt to Keith Jardine. There are two guys I haven’t caught and that’s Saulo and Xande Ribeiro.

My ground game is my real bread and butter. That is why I am so dedicated to training with those two. I want to make it my real true strength. That is not to say that I am not working to become a top striker. If you’re not evolved in the in the striking your eventually going to get your butt knocked out. That is just the way it is in mixed martial arts.

I am going to make all of my people on my team proud when I get in there and get my first submission of the night.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Have you visualized submitting Clay Guida?

Diego Sanchez: Definitely. If that is where the fight goes. I am going to start out picking him apart on my feet though. If the fight goes to the ground I am prepared to take him out there. My game plan is to kick his ass and take him out anywhere the fight goes.

It is even better that I get to do in on the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter. It will be my second main event for them. My first being the fight against Nick Diaz on the season two finale. That was one of the best fights of my career and look for this to be another. They realize that I fight hard and put on exciting fights so I am grateful to be a part of it.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): One last question Diego: I have to ask about your fight with Karo Parisyan. It was an absolute war and one of the best fights fans have seen. Can you just talk to us about that fight and what impact it had on your career?

Diego Sanchez: That fight is the perfect example of when a guy comes forward and fights. That is exactly what Clay Guida is going do in our fight. It will be a war, too. That fight with Karo was a turning point in my career in that I was really starting to peak and people saw that I was a contender and one of the best in the world.

I ran into some bumps along the road in 2007. I had the split decision loss to Fitch and the decision loss Koscheck when I had the staph infection. Those are learning experiences and it was not my destiny to be a champ at 170. I feel my destiny is to be champ at 155 and I will likely end my career at this division. I will venture onward in the lightweight division. I will put my heart and soul into my training and go for it brother.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): It looks like we’re winding down Diego. Time for shout outs:

Diego Sanchez: I want to thank the Sacramento Kings and the Maloof family for helping me out. I want to thank my sponsor badboymma.com. We are taking over the MMA scene. Also, the top of the line in pharmaceutical grade supplements NUTRABOLICS. There is nothing better and I couldn’t have made the 155 cut without it. Of course, number one is my lord and savior Jesus Christ. Nothing matters without my relationship with him. That is what really drives me to be a champion.

Brian Oswald (MMAmania.com): Thanks Diego. We look forward to seeing you back in the octagon this Saturday.

Diego Sanchez: Thanks, brother.

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