That’s a massive departure from the way Sanchez viewed himself, expressed himself, and carried himself for the last 15 years.
Being “Diego Sanchez, UFC Fighter” was his identity and being anything else besides a mixed martial artist in relentless pursuit of the next fight that would bring him closer to winning championship gold didn’t seem to make sense to him. Even when the victories started to be harder to come by and the miles continued to pile up, Sanchez was convinced, almost defiant at times, that he was still going to reach the top of the mountain because that’s who he was and what he was supposed to do.
But now, after more than 15 years of chasing the same goal with unbridled determination, a more accepting Sanchez has emerged.
“This pandemic has forced me to see what is inevitable,” he began. “I have four more fights in the UFC and I’ll be happy to get those last four fights, invest the money I make, and retire.”
Retirement wasn’t a subject Sanchez wanted to discuss as recently as the start of the year, but being forced to take a break for the first time in 15 years finally gave him the chance to do two things he’s needed to do for quite some time: understand that none of us can fight forever, literally or figuratively, and catch up on some much needed sleep.
“I caught up on years of sleep,” he said, excited to discuss his hibernation habits over the past several months. “Like, I remember going down and passing out for 12, 13 hours on the regular. I caught up on some rest, and now I feel great. I feel rejuvenated and excited to go out there and continue creating this legendary legacy I’ve been creating.
“I’ll tell you the truth, man: I feel relaxed for the first time in my life,” continued Sanchez, who enters Saturday’s contest with Matthews having won three of his last four appearances. “For the first time in my life, I have been able to relax, and with this new, relaxed mindset, I’m calm; I’m cool.
“I’ve done more than most men have ever done in the UFC — I’m already a legend — and now, it’s just about finishing the right way; going out there and executing with these opportunities that I have.”
For the first time in a number of years and multiple interviews, Sanchez didn’t finish his statement about the future talking about chasing down UFC gold.
There was no “I’m only a couple wins away” or mapping out what it would take the land a championship fight in the next 12-18 months. There wasn’t any talk of destiny or still having four, five, six more good years left in order to pursue the one thing that has escaped him to this point in his career.
Instead, he was simply excited about the opportunity at hand — facing Matthews and competing on Fight Island — and content to still be doing what he loves, minus all that pressure he put on himself for all those years.
“It’s nothing personal with Jake, but you’re going to see a different Diego Sanchez going into this fight because I’m relaxed now,” he said. “I’m calm, I’m confident in who I am and in my capabilities and I’m going to go out there and perform.
“I’m going in there to finish this guy and I know I have what it takes to execute and finish, so I’m going in there confident, ready, and prepared to be victorious.”
Visit Abu Dhabi: http://www.abudhabievents.ae/