Diego Sanchez's cred as one of MMA's most exciting fighters is well-established. Sanchez has twice had his hand raised after fights of the year, his 2006 victory over Karo Parisyan and in 2009 against Clay Guida.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Sanchez, who recently announced he's dropping back down to lightweight, would look down on fighters who try to skate by on points. But what might be surprising is that Sanchez is willing to call out his own teammates.
On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Sanchez told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani that the most recent performances by his Jackson's MMA teammates, Guida and Carlos Condit, both "sucked" and that he felt Condit lost his February fight with Nick Diaz.
"I thought both of those fights sucked," Sanchez said of Diaz-Condit and Guida's loss to Gray Maynard. "My coaches might get mad at me for that, but that's my opinion and I'm allowed to have my opinion.
"I thought Nick Diaz won the fight with Carlos. When you're not engaging and you're not fighting, that takes away what this sport is. That's my opinion, that's why I want to fight someone like the Diaz boys who will come and step in front of you and fight you. I guess that's all opinion, but the fans, they have my back on this, and that's what fighting's all about. It's for the fans, and Dana White knows this. That's why he gets so pissed off when there's crappy fights like that. Us as fighters, we must step it up if we want to get taken care of and get paid right and grow this fight into the biggest spot in the world, above all other sports, we have to get in the cage and we have to leave it all in the cage every time."
Sanchez, who is on the sidelines after getting surgery to repair a torn left labrum, was careful to say that he places the blame for poor fights on the fighters themselves, and not coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn.
"It's on that fighter," Sanchez said. "In the end, they lock the door and the coaches aren't in there with you. In the end, if you're in the UFC, you are a professional, you paid your dues, and you know exactly what this job entails. You should go in there as a professional and do what you do. ... I'd rather go out swinging, fighting like a warrior, those last 30 seconds. I'm going to leave it all out in the cage and know that I'm trying to finish my opponent, even knowing that most of my time it ain't going to be a finish."
If any fighter's earned the right to drop such bombshells, it's Sanchez, who started in the UFC as the middleweight winner of the inaugural Ultimate Fighter. Sanchez competed at welterweight, where he had his Fight of the Year with Parisyan, until his career stalled. He went down to lightweight and went on a tear before running into a prime B.J. Penn in a lightweight title bout at UFC 107.
Sanchez furthered his reputation for exciting fights when he went back up to welterweight, with three consecutive Fight of the Night performances. But after his February loss to Jake Ellenberger, Sanchez, now 30, took time to ponder his future and came to the conclusion 155 is where he belongs.
"It makes sense," he said. "I went over it with Greg Jackson and my coaches, and, it just makes sense. Everyone's dropping weight. When I saw [Nate] Marquardt fight at 170, I was like, this guy's a monster. He's huge, he's strong, he's in shape. I'm just not that physically big, so I was like, I better do what I have to do, get down to 155, be where I'm going to have the most leverage, strength, speed, the best technique. And also on top of that have less injuries training with smaller guys, less weight, less load on the knees. Its a smarter decision toward the end of my career."
Asked the obligatory "who do you want to fight" question, Diaz said a bout with Nate Diaz appeals to him for all the right reasons.
"The UFC's smart," he said. They'll capitalize on my entertainment and what I bring to the table and what I bring to the cage, and that's a raw, exciting warrior mentality. So, matched up with any of those guys [at 155], the guy I want the most is Nate Diaz. If he wants to scrap, I know he's knocking at the door of a title shot, so, I have all the respect for him in that area. So, you know, if things don't work out with the timing, he's the one that I'd like to fight, because I love them Diaz boys. They're two of my favorite fighters, they come and they bring it and they scrap, and I love it. That's fighting, to me."
Sanchez said he anticipates an early 2013 Octagon return. Until then, he reminded fans one more time that it's on fighters to get the job done.
"Don't give Greg and Coach Wink the hard rap," he said. "There's so many Jackson fighters like me, guys like Jon [Jones], there's so many guys who are just straight-up warriors, who leave everything in the cage."