Diego Sanchez faced Ross Pearson in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 42 on Saturday night in Sanchez's hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to the judges - and Sanchez, himself - it was the Greg Jackson-trained Sanchez who won after the bout went to their score cards. They had it 30-27 for Pearson, 30-27 for Sanchez and 29-28 for Sanchez.
The issue, however, is it's not clear who beyond two judges and Sanchez himself believes the hometown fighter truly won.
MMA Fighting (this writer) scored the bout 30-27 for Pearson as did virtually the entire mixed martial arts media. According to Fight Metric, Pearson out landed Sanchez in every round with strikes, both in terms of volume as well as with significant strikes. Pearson was the only fighter who also scored any takedowns.
In the aftermath of the announcement that Sanchez had won, most observable online reaction ranged from shock to disgust. Yet, at the post-fight press conference, Sanchez remained adamant he did enough to win the contest.
"I definitely thought I won the first and third round," Sanchez stated. "I thought it was unanimous, but I haven't got to see the fight yet. I can't really assess it, but definitely thought I won the fight. I thought 30-27 was ridiculous, but, you know, I got my hand raised.
"I'm happy," he continued. "I felt like I landed the big power shots. I felt like I had him wobbled. I felt like I had him hurt a couple of times. It was a good fight. I was happy with it."
Naturally, Pearson didn't share Sanchez's assessment, although he was quick to note he doesn't harbor ill will towards his opponent. Instead, he blasted the judges for what he perceived as unfairness, incompetency or a toxic combination of both.
"I felt good in the fight. I came out confident, relaxed. I think I outclassed Diego," Pearson argued. "I picked my shots well. I think I won every round. I came in here. Who finishes Diego Sanchez? The guy's a warrior.
"I tried. He put on a tough fight, but I think I won every round," Pearson said. "It just sucks. I'm hurting right now. I believe I've lost half a paycheck. The judges here, they don't lose half a paycheck. I feel that I've been robbed."
UFC President Dana White was not in attendance at the post-fight press conference, but public relations head Dave Sholler called the decision "controversial at best". He also said UFC management would review it on Monday to decide what, if anything, they'd do in terms of paying Pearson any additional monies, booking a rematch between the two lightweights and more.
As for any future fight, Sanchez asked to be placed on the November card in Mexico opposite Nate Diaz. He didn't rule out, however, a rematch with Pearson to settle matters once and for all.
"He was a fun fight. I'd fight him any day of the week," Sanchez said of Pearson. "Ain't no haters going to rob me of my joy right now, my victory. This was a great night for me. I thought I won the fight, 100 percent. So did the judges. Yeah, it's my hometown, but the judges came and did their job. Some reporters can say this, say that. I'm the original guy. I've dealt with this all my career.
"I've had people say, 'Oh, he lost this fight. He didn't win this fight.' You know what? I won the fight tonight. My hand was raised. I'm happy."
For his part, Pearson is up for a rematch as well, assuming UFC management and fan demand push matters in that direction. If the Brit were to get his way the next time, though, he won't fight Sanchez anywhere near his hometown.
"Yeah, 100 percent," Pearson said of his willingness to face Sanchez again. "I came to Diego's back yard, possibly the best Diego there's ever been fighting in front of his home fans, his family. Obviously he came out to take me out. I guess he's the most dangerous he's ever been and I think I beat him, so let's do it on my home soil, neutral grounds and we'll do it again.
"It was an honor fighting Diego. I've got nothing against Diego," Pearson reiterated. "I like the guy. He put on a great fight. Let's do it again, if that's what the fans want. We'll do it again."