Some fans and pundits were a wee bit surprised when the UFC announced that Gilbert Melendez would fight Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, since “El Nino” is the promotion’s #2 ranked lightweight and the latter is not in the top ten. Rankings aside, however, the match-up makes sense, since Sanchez is not only one of the UFC’s toughest fights, he’s been a top contender before.
As any hardcore fan will recall, Sanchez elected to drop down to lightweight back in 2009, and after defeating Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida, he was booked to fight champion BJ Penn at UFC 107. Sanchez was stopped by the legendary fighter (due to a cut) in the fifth round, and eventually returned to welterweight. “The Dream” scored wins over established vets like Martin Kampmann and Paulo Thiago, but came up short against top contender Jake Ellenberger last February.
So, after returning to lightweight earlier this year (and defeating Takanori Gomi by split decision), is the 31 year-old Sanchez committed to 155? While speaking to the media this week, here’s what Sanchez had to say about his previous weight cutting issues and his future aspirations (comments via MMA Fighting.com).
“My goal is to be the best 155-pounder in the world,” Sanchez said. “I always made excuses that I wasn’t a 155-pounder, that I was stuck in between 170 and 155, that we needed a 165-pound weight class. I was always adjusting and going back and forth, and creating more difficulties in my training. Well now I just accepted that I have to do extra to be a 155-pounder. I have to work harder on my nutrition. I have to contain my weight at a certain weight. I can’t let myself blow back up after fights. I’ve just embraced the fact that I am a 155-pounder.”
Sanchez also said that if he stops Melendez Saturday, it will make a “real case” for a title shot, considering the latter’s abilities and record. Sanchez also recently stated he has the “style” to defeat champion Anthony Pettis, so clearly the vet is feeling pretty confident about his prospects at 155.
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