"One hundred percent," the British lightweight said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "The bigger the risk, the bigger the rewards. ... It would have been a huge deal to beat him on his home soil."
But little did Pearson suspect that he'd be on the wrong end of a decision that would instantly vault into the discussion of the biggest judging heists in the two-decade history of mixed martial arts.
By all sane accounts, Pearson thoroughly outclassed Sanchez in the latter's hometown on Saturday night. But two New Mexico Athletic Commission judges inexplicably scored the fight in Sanchez's favor, with Jeff Collins scoring the bout 30-27 and Chris Tellez 29-28 (Marcos Rosales scored it 30-27 for Pearson), for a controversial split decision.
"When Bruce Buffer announced ‘30-27 Pearson,' I knew straightaway, I knew then that it was obviously going to be a split decision,'" Pearson said. "So I knew, what I thought was robbed, because I knew in my heart I won that fight unanimously. So when they said 30-27 Pearson I just knew straightaway. "
When the final verdict was announced fans weren't the only ones who had the word "robbery" cross their minds.
"I feel like I've been robbed at the airport and someone stole one of my paychecks," Pearson said. "But, you know, I watched the fight back today, and if that wasn't textbook how to beat Diego Sanchez, I don't know how else to put it. I'm not taking anything away from Diego, the guy is a warrior, he comes to fight every time. We knew that going into the fight, it was even more important to outclass him, shine on that night in his hometown and beat him convincingly."
While Sanchez showed flashes of his trademark manic, forward-moving style during the fight, you didn't have to take a look at the replay to see the he was missing most of his punches, and Pearson was effectively counterattacking.
"He missed on pretty much everything," Pearson said. "Everything he threw, I countered. In the third round, he didn't really get off because every time he got off, he got hit, so, I controlled the pace of the fight and when I stood and threw with him I hit him with clean shots. I beat him everywhere, there's no doubt in my mind at the end of the third round that I won the fight.
"I went over to the side of the cage and I looked at [UFC announcers] Kenny Florian and Jon Anik and I said, ‘What do you think, all three?' both nodded their head at it. I felt that I won all three."
Two judges, of course, felt otherwise. Pearson confirmed that his camp has filed a formal protest with the commission, but doesn't expect much of it.
"Straight after the fight when we got back to the changing rooms we questioned the commission," Pearson said. "The chief commissioner came in and we asked if we could file a complaint questioning the judges decision and why it was 30-27 to Sanchez. We filed a report to get it questioned and commissioner said he was taking it serious and there would be a full investigation of the situation. ... I don't expect anything to come of it."
Of more immediate concern to Pearson is the fact that the bout against Sanchez was the final fight of his contract. His previous clash was an odd no-contest against Melvin Guillard. And while it's hard to see how anyone short of a New Mexico judge would hold the results of his last two fights against him, Pearson, without a contract, is understandably nervous about how having a no-contest and a loss on his ledger will affect his next deal.
"The whole world knows that I won the fight, I know I won the fight," Pearson said. "It just looks bad on my career. This was the last fight on my UFC contract, coming from a no-contest with Melvin which wasn't my fault, than having this, which isn't my fault, doesn't look good from my situation with the UFC, you know what I mean? This is a fight game, the UFC can't sell ‘Ross Pearson narrowly lost a judges' decision to Diego Sanchez' in his next fight, you know what I mean? I can't go main event in a card now."
Still, though, Pearson expressed a desire to re-sign with the UFC. Further, he'd like to get back into the Octagon sooner rather than later, and he'd like another crack at the veteran somewhere outside New Mexico.
"I'm going back to the gym tomorrow," Pearson said. "I'm completely fine, I've got no medical suspension, I'm cleared to go straightaway. I would like to fight on the Dublin card on July 19 or maybe the China card August 27, the Bisping-Le card. As soon as the UFC wants to do it. If Diego wants to do it again in Dublin if he's cleared, I'd be honored to do it on a neutral ground, at least give me the respect, I went into his hometown and fought him there, let's do it on a neutral ground and let's fight it out."
In the meantime, Pearson hopes the judges will give a public accounting of their scores.
"The has nothing to do with the UFC or Diego, it was the judges, the two judges on the night," Pearson said. "I have nothing bad to say about anyone on the night except, you should have the two judges who made that decision on there explaining themselves. Why was Diego scored 30-27? Why did you have Diego winning that fight? I don't know how, what did he do to beat me in that fight?"