Diego Sanchez may be fighting the "uncrowned" Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion at UFC 166 this weekend (Oct. 19, 2013) in Houston, Texas in Gilbert Melendez, but should "The Dream" best "El Nino," he wants a shot at the gold against the real division kingpin, Anthony Pettis.
Speaking to MMA Fighting, Sanchez acknowledges a victory over Melendez would only be his second straight at 155 pounds, but he feels an impressive win over the former Strikeforce champion is his "golden ticket" to jump to the front of the line.
And as history has shown, it isn't too far-fetched to believe two straight wins will earn him a shot at the division strap. After all, he's done it before.
"Gilbert Melendez is my golden ticket. I've done it before. I fought two fights in 2009 at 155. Straight to the belt. (Melendez) has never been stopped. He avenged two of his three losses. His only loss is to Benson Henderson in a split decision that I felt went his way, so in a way I'm fighting a guy who's almost untainted. And if I go in there, and I stop this guy, I think it makes a real case for a title shot."
A win will likely earn him a spot in the top 10, but he won't be moving all the way to the top.
As far as his opinion on current division champion Anthony Pettis, Diego say he respects "Showtime's" abilities as a fighter, but he also believes Melendez is much more well-rounded. Furthermore, Sanchez doesn't see Pettis ruling the division for very long.
"He's (Melendez) a more well-rounded fighter than Anthony Pettis. I have a lot of respect for the champ, but I don't see him lasting long in this division. I see him eventually losing his belt and making the drop to 145 to become a multiple weight division champion. The bottom line is, guys are big. Guys are getting big. There's guys like me, I'm may be walking into the cage at 180 on Saturday night."
While a win over an accomplished veteran such as "El Nino" would be a nice feather in Diego's cap, it's hard to believe that it will earn him his much-desired title shot.
Furthermore, his controversial split-decision victory over Takanori Gomi earlier this year at UFC on FUEL TV 8 won't help his cause and he would likely need at least one or two more impressive victories to leapfrog the likes of T.J. Grant and Ben Henderson.
But then again, stranger things have happened (think Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen) as far as title shots are concerned.