Diego Sanchez is ready to make the walk again for Eagle FC.
At Friday’s Eagle FC 46 event in Miami, the 40-year-old veteran dropped a unanimous decision to Kevin Lee in the 165-pound headlining bout in what was the promotional debut for both fighters. Afterwards, Sanchez spoke to the media about being proud of his performance and his plans to continue competing.
“I feel like being away from the sport for so long, not being in the cage for so long, not fighting for so long, just a lot of different emotions came up throughout fight week, throughout the weight cut,” Sanchez said. “It wasn’t a normal weight cut for me either because I had seriously almost died in November, December. I had the double pneumonia, the blood clots in the legs and I barely was released from the hospital late December. So it wasn’t easy to get back in shape. It was a lot more difficult this time around.
“But I’m hard-working and I just said you know what, I’m gonna do this. I got the call from Ali [Abdelaziz], I got the call from Eagle FC and they had this opportunity for me. When I saw the first press conference when Kevin Lee signed with Eagle FC I saw the attention that he was getting and I saw the eyes were on him and people were watching. And I knew that this opportunity wasn’t gonna come again. It just was either you man up and you deal with the circumstances and you go and you give it your best and there’s a chance you might get it. And I almost did.”
Though the decision was without controversy, Sanchez put on a competitive effort against Lee, who later said he believes that he suffered a serious knee injury early in the bout. This was Sanchez’s first since a loss to Jake Matthews at UFC 253 in September 2020.
Sanchez was encouraged by his own performance and expects to fulfill his three-fight deal with Eagle FC.
“Some people told me that they thought I won the second round, that it should have been 29-28, but like I said, this isn’t the best Diego Sanchez ever,” Sanchez said. “I sucked it up and got it done. I got in the best shape I could in five weeks and coming out of retirement, coming out of the hospital.
“When I come back for my second Eagle FC fight because I have two more fights on my contract, you’re going to see the real Diego Sanchez. You’re going to see me in my top physical prime condition and I’m gonna do anything and everything to get there and I’m gonna come and I’m gonna be victorious.”
Sanchez’s return to competition was met with public scrutiny, given the amount of fights he’s already been in (2022 marks Sanchez’s 20th year as a pro fighter and he now has 44 bouts under his belt) and the issues that the well-documented issues he’s faced outside of the cage.
During his recent run with the UFC, Sanchez became embroiled in a controversial partnership with self-styled guru Joshua Fabia, which ire from the MMA community. Sanchez himself later accused Fabia of “mental manipulation.” He understands the criticism that has come his away and stated that he considers that chapter of his life to be behind him.
“The truth of it is for the last two years I wasn’t really myself and I was letting someone else lead my life,” Sanchez said. “So I took control of the steering wheel and I did it the Diego Sanchez way. I did this training camp myself. I didn’t have a team. I didn’t run back to [former coach Greg] Jackson’s. I did it myself. I had some friends. ... I had two training partners, I had two jiu-jitsu training and I had one mitt man. So was my team.
“I didn’t do no sparring rounds, maybe three or four rounds of sparring in this training camp. I put the work in and I did what I could do and I went and I showed the world that all things are possible when you have God helping you.”
Sanchez admitted that he is definitely eyeing retirement once he is done fighting for Eagle FC, but he still has goals in mind and that includes a rematch with Kevin Lee and winning a title with the promotion.
“I’m not done here,” Sanchez said. “I still see that golden Eagle FC championship belt. I know what I’m capable of and I want to get back in there with Kevin Lee. That’s a fight I want. I want that fight, I want to fight him in my top, prime condition. I feel like I’ve seen what he has to bring to the table. He couldn’t get me out of there. He threw everything he had at me and I found some chinks in his armor. I want to get back in there with Kevin Lee.”