Now, they have unofficially agreed to meet next.
Following his win over Mickey Gall at Saturday’s UFC 235 in Las Vegas, Sanchez revealed to the media that him and Maia have tried to make the fight before, having agreed to it on social media, but the UFC opted to give them different matchups.
Now riding a two-fight winning streak against Gall and Craig White, the original TUF winner explained why he wanted to meet the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist next.
MMA Fighting reached out to Maia to get his response, and he’s 100 percent into the idea.
”I have a lot of respect for Diego, he is a warrior, and like I said on my Twitter, you can never underestimate experience,” Maia said. “I really thought it was nice to see him go against the odds and get the win. It’s not easy to be competing at a high level for so long, it’s a tough game, and he deserves a lot of recognition. So, I would be honored to compete against him, after all the history we both have in the sport. Why not?”
According to Maia, Sanchez “approached me before the (Kamaru) Usman fight (at UFC Chile), was super respectful, and I told him that it would be an honor, but it’s obviously not up to us. Time has gone by, we both had some fights, and everybody knows that I don’t go out challenging people, it’s not my style.”
After his recent win over Lyman Good at UFC Fortaleza, Maia mentioned Michael Chiesa as an ideal next opponent in his post-fight press conference. Now, he sees Sanchez as “a fun fight” that he would be honored to accept if the UFC decides to book it.
”I think if there’s a time this can make sense, it is now,” Maia said, “and if it doesn’t happen now, it most likely won’t ever happen.”
Fresh off a first-round submission finish — his first win since May 2017 — Maia would be open to compete at UFC 237, which is scheduled for May 11 in Rio de Janeiro. However, he’s more interested in getting the right opponents rather than on specific fight cards.
”I would like to fight in Rio,” Maia said, “but at this stage in my career, I feel like having a fight with an opponent that makes sense for the moment is the most important thing for me, so the opponent is more important than the card in a sense. I already fought pretty much everybody in the division, including the top three fighters in the weight class in a row, and I’m 41, getting to probably my last fights, so now I think that fights that are fun are the most important thing, not necessarily always tied to rankings.
”So ideally any card around May or June would be interesting with the right opponent. With that said, I leave that to (manager) Eduardo (Alonso) and the UFC, and I trust them to come up with something that makes sense for everybody, whether is Diego or someone else.”
If the fight does happen, Maia wouldn’t expect it play out as him looking to take it to the ground and Sanchez desperately avoiding it.
”Fights are fights. It’s a cliche, but it’s true, you can never know how they’ll go down for sure until you do it,” Maia said. “Diego has a very good ground game, often underrated, is experienced, tough, has a lot of heart and has a great pace. I wouldn’t underestimate him at all, and I think it would be fun, with a lot of interesting scrambles. He is an offensive fighter, so he wouldn’t just try to avoid grappling at any costs, so it would be fun to watch, for sure.”