The growing distaste for Conor McGregor amongst fighters knows no divisional bounds it seems, as lightweight Diego Sanchez found himself ranting about the loquacious Irish featherweight for a good eight minutes of his own accord during a Tuesday appearance on The MMA Hour.
"The thing is, when he jumped into the spot, he started barking up the wrong dog's alley," Sanchez said of McGregor. "Because I'm one of the guys who laid the bricks for this great career that he's having. I was one of the ones who created this expansion for the sport, I helped build the foundation on this big building, and the guy is just disrespectful. He don't respect it.
"I've said it once and I'll say it again, styles make fights, and I'm 100-percent confident that within five rounds, I'll finish this guy, that I'll make him tap. I'll make this guy give up. I'll make this guy say: ‘I give up.' And I know this in my heart. See, this guy has a lot of willpower and confidence in himself and the power of the mind and visualizing and mentalizing, ‘I study nine hours a day' type of s**t. But you know what, styles make fights, man. And I'm a different animal."
Sanchez, the granite-chinned, iron-willed last remnant of The Ultimate Fighter 1, was slated to fight Joe Lauzon at UFC 180 after original opponent Norman Parke pulled out with an injury, although for a brief moment it appeared as if McGregor had jumped up a weight class to settle the pair's score.
In the end it didn't matter, as Sanchez himself had to withdraw from the promotion's debut venture into Mexico after suffering a grade two tear in his LCL. But the whole experience left a sour taste in Sanchez's mouth, and now a showdown against McGregor sits firmly atop the 32-year-old's wish list.
"That's the fight that, in my mind, this is the guy that I'm training for," Sanchez said.
"Come fight me, dude. Yeah, you're real relaxed. Yeah, you've got good conditioning because you're real relaxed and you know how to relax in there like no other. Well you know what, let's see if you can relax while fighting me. You're not going to be able to relax like you do with other guys. I'll take your shots and I'll keep coming forward, I'll keep putting pressure on you. That's the style, it's a style match-up.
"He don't know it. He don't know it because he's so young and he's so cocky. The longer that he goes, yeah, the better that he gets. But in my opinion, he's at his most dangerous right now. The longer that it goes, I think Conor McGregor is going to be Conor McGregor's worst enemy. He's going to be the one who's his own downfall, and that's because of his lack of respect."
Sanchez added that he felt there were more than a few fighters in McGregor's own division who could derail the Irishman's tremendous hype train, mentioning Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Dennis Bermudez, and champ Jose Aldo by name. He also acknowledged that it's probably in the UFC's best interests to "protect" McGregor at this stage in the game, just as many observers believe the promotion is doing by booking McGregor against Dennis Siver on Jan. 18 rather than a name among the cadre of wrestlers that line the 145-pound ranks.
"The guy is going to make a lot of money for the company. He is," Sanchez admitted. "And that's probably why he's getting paid so good right now already. I'm sure there are a lot of fighters who are upset he's getting paid so much, so fast into the game. But I don't care about that. I earned my contract, I paid my dues, and I'm not going to cry about that. The UFC, they do their job. I just want to fight the guy. I want to fight the guy for the main reason that this guy brings out the best in me, so we'll see.
"I've really given it some considerable thought of dropping to 145 just to fight him. That's how much I would love to fight this guy, five rounds. I'll fight him Ireland. I'll fight him in freakin' anywhere. I'll fight him in Mexico, maybe on that next Mexico card. I don't care. He says he wants to do it, but that's just talk. He don't want to do it. I'm telling you, he knows the cards he's pulling. He threw that card out there just to get people riled up and get people excited on something. He knew the UFC wasn't going to let him. He don't want that fight."