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Pre-'TUF 7 Finale' Interview with Diego Sanchez

UFC welterweight Diego Sanchez will resume his climb towards a shot at the title when he steps inside the Octagon Saturday night at the "TUF 7 Finale" in Las Vegas.

After consecutive setbacks to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch in 2007, Sanchez returned in March 2008 at UFC 82 "Pride of a Champion" to overwhelm UFC newcomer David Bielkheden with strikes for the much-needed victory.

On Saturday, Sanchez (21-2) takes on another fighter looking for a second straight win, Luigi Fioravanti (14-3), out of the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. How's training been coming along for this fight?

Diego Sanchez: Training has been going phenomenal. Training with Saulo Ribeiro for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu here in San Diego, California. I'm in great shape. I'm ready to go in there and fight my fight. Many people found it puzzling when it was announced that you were fighting someone with a .500 record in the UFC, what do you think was the reasoning behind this matchup being made?

Sanchez: Luigi is a great fight for me. He's 12-3. His only losses were a decision to [Chris] Leben, decision to [Kenny] Florian, and the only one to stop him in his career was Jon Fitch with a rear naked choke. He came off a win over Luke Cummo, a dominating win. He put himself in place for [a title shot]. He has seven knockout wins. He's the real deal. In his last five victories, four of them were by TKO, so that's obviously something to watch out for anyone stepping in against Luigi. How would you describe his striking game?

Sanchez: He's a brawler. I'm not saying he's a sloppy brawler, but he has some good things that he does with his striking. He has some footwork. He has some skills that he does pretty well. But it's also his clever punches, man. That's dangerous, he definitely has some power in his hands. That's also something that I'm aware of. The last guy that I fought, David Bielkheden, also had some strong hands, some clever punches. That's something I have trained for before and I'm ready to fight again. Nothing new. How do you prepare for fighting someone where it's harder to predict where the punches are coming from?

Sanchez: You just gotta keep your eyes open, and the main thing is to know the distance. When he's at a certain distance, he cannot touch you. And you gotta be smart and strategically place yourself in that distance. That's happens to be something I'm really well at doing. Besides your main Jiu-Jitsu team, who else are you training with right now?

Sanchez: My main training partner is Fabricio "Morango" Camoes. He's an EliteXC fighter. He's relatively new to America, so he's not too known. He's an awesome training partner. And I also got Gilbert Melendez, who comes down and helps me out. And several different guys that are around the circuit that I have. When you left Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, what made you decide to pack your bags to San Diego?

Sanchez: The environment is amazing down here. And the people I'm training with my ground work, my Jiu-Jitsu is just the very top level. They're the best and that's something that I wanted to challenge myself with. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I was with the best, and that would make me rise up and be a better fighter all around. It was easier for me to find striking partners, and sparring partners, to find people to stand and trade/spar with anywhere, but it's not easy to find the top ground fighters in the world. If this fight goes your way, do you want to immediately jump in the title mix or would you prefer to continue taking it one fight at a time?

Sanchez: That's all I'm here for is the title shot. So as soon as I can get a title shot, that's when I'll be fighting it for. ASAP. You have unfinished business with Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, which loss do you want to avenge more?

Sanchez: I want to avenge both of them equal. But in time. Both those guys aren't going anywhere. I'm not going anywhere. I would like to have those fights as a title defense or me fighting for the title, as if Fitch was to win [against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 87]. A rematch with Fitch would be awesome. Or if I was to go in with the title, a rematch with Koscheck [cause] five rounds would be incredible. You mentioned after your Fitch fight that he was very strong and that's something you wanted to improve on. Have you done anything specific for your strength training?

Sanchez: Oh yeah. Kettlebell training and powerlifting, yeah that's about it. Did you do anything new?

Sanchez: Yea, that is new. [Laughs.] That's new to me. I never really hit the weights too hard, but that's something I'm starting to do again here. I'm interested in hearing your take on weight classes. You've said that 155 pounds would be too much for you to cut down to. Do you like what EliteXC is doing by implementing a 160-pound division? Or would too many weight classes be confusing?

Sanchez: Nah, I think within time, it's good man. I think that it's good. Cause I think there are guys out there like me, where 165 pounds would be the perfect weight for me. It just depends, I think it would be awesome if there were more weights, but it's obvious, look at boxing. Boxing has all those weight classes and even just five pounds makes a big difference. You know what I mean? But don't you think with so many champions it'll be hard to determine who the best fighters are?

Sanchez: No, I don't think so. It all depends. As long as we have enough fighters, and as long as fighters have the opportunity to go up or go down. So if you're at the top of the weight class and you're the champion, you're the elite of that class, then you're entitled to fight up a weight if the weights were close, five-ten pounds. Fitch and St. Pierre are two guys you're bound to meet at some point. What are your thoughts on that match?

Sanchez: I think that's going to be a great fight. I don't know man. I really don't have a pick. That's something that I'm just going to wait and see what happens.

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