Diego Sanchez and Nick Diaz’s rivalry extended beyond the confines of the octagon.
The two MMA stars met 15 years ago in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale, with Sanchez emerging triumphant via three-round decision. Sanchez improved to 14-0 at the time and just as importantly silenced a rival who questioned his credentials as one of the men who joined the UFC through the first season of The Ultimate Fighter reality television show.
Recounting the greatest moments of his career with TUF 1 housemate Mick Swick on the Real Quick with Mike Swick Podcast, Sanchez mentioned that his win over Diaz stood out due to the fact that Diaz had somehow acquired his contact information and used it to send some deeply personal attacks.
“Me and Nick Diaz hated each other,” Sanchez said. “Nick Diaz used to send me e-mails. He found my e-mail, he talked to one of the MMA journalists at the time, there wasn’t many. Gave him my e-mail and he would e-mail me hate mails.
“Bad sh*t. Talking sh*t about my mom, talking sh*t about my dad, just trying to get under my skin with everything he had. He hated me. He hated Ultimate Fighters because we got all that attention. He was in the spotlight at that time, he hated us and he hated me.”
Swick backed up Sanchez’s story, pointing out that future Hall of Famers like Sanchez, Forrest Griffin, and Stephan Bonnar were looked down upon by UFC veterans because of their reality show association.
“People don’t realize that when we came off The Ultimate Fighter, we became stars in the UFC and people forget the fact it was hard for us,” Swick said. “The UFC fighters and the UFC gave us no respect. Even though you had as many fights as you had. Forrest, so many guys had so many fights, they don’t remember how hard it was for us to prove ourselves in the UFC. We had to keep winning because we were looked upon as guys who had some kind of easy shoo-in and we were the TV guys.
“We got no respect even though we were fighters on The Ultimate Fighter season 1 and we went through that whole freakin’ show and helped build the sport. And instead of getting respect we actually had to like—That’s why we all had that chip on our shoulder when we got in the UFC because we were the hated guys in the UFC.”
Sanchez won his first six UFC fights and though he never captured a world title, he challenged B.J. Penn for the lightweight championship at UFC 107. In his eyes, he and the rest of the original TUF cast did more than enough to prove to fighters like Diaz and others that they belonged.
“‘Those Ultimate Fighters, they were just all a reality show,’” Sanchez said, imitating critics. “Yeah right, look at all of our best victories, all of us. Look at Forrest, he became world champion. Bonnar fought five world champions. We were legit.”