Dreams Can Be Broken
There was a time not so long ago that Diego Sanchez was talked about as a future champion. He was 17-0 with wins over guys like Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, John Alessio, Jorge Santiago and Joe Riggs. That is pretty impressive for a young fighter who also won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). Not only did he beat all of his opponents, it was rare for it not to be decisive. They almost announced his retirement before his highly anticipated rematch with Josh Koscheck (who he had beat during the first season of TUF). As it turns out he had a Staph infection that was originally thought to be Hepatitis C. After the fight was over, Diego was left with his first loss and Josh was left singing “17 AND ONE!”. This was the beginning of what would turn out to be a roller coaster of highs and lows for the Sanchez.
A few months after his first loss, Diego left his long time trainer, Greg Jackson and moved to California. At its best he would earn a shot at the 155 lb title. At its worst, Diego would put on 3 of the worst performances of his career and lose all of his money. One thing is for certain, when he stopped being the Nightmare, he stopped dominating. Of course he had some losses before he changed his nickname but he it was obvious the Nightmare had been replaced by the Dream. Looking at his performances since moving back up to 170, the Diego that started his career at 17-0 was nowhere to be found. Some may point to holes in his game catching up to him while others will point to issues outside of the Octagon. Personally, I think the issues had something to do with him looking flat but I think there is more to it. His approach perhaps?
Diego recently spoke about how he was partying too much and wasn’t putting the time in that is required at this level of competition. I think this speaks directly to his outlook on life. Sanchez once explained how his nickname was due to the Nightmare he was going to put his opponents through the fear of getting exhausted from the pace he was going to put on them. He would train so hard that he would never get tired. I think that was really the Nightmare he spoke of. His training life was literally putting himself through hell to be in the shape needed to make his opponents live fear he once had. The fear of being gassed in a fight. Now compare that to his new outlook on life, that he is living the Dream. Truth is, living the Dream was ruining his career. He had fame, money, traveled the world and did was doing what he loved, fighting. To most, THAT is living the Dream, the insane training sounded more like the Nightmare. If perception is reality, the reality is Sanchez is going to need more than what “living the Dream” has to offer if he wants to beat a Juggernaut.
Jake Ellenberger has looked like a Juggernaut since joining the UFC. He has gone 5-1 with his lone loss to current Interim Welter Weight Champion, Carlos Condit. In his lone UFC loss, Jake nearly put Condit out in the first round and ended up losing a highly controversial Split Decision. Since then, he has stopped four (two in the first round) of his last five opponents. In his last fight he KO’d Jake Shields in less than a minute. That is impressive considering nobody had stopped Shields since 2000. What does all of this mean? You better bring your A game if you have a fight scheduled with Ellenberger. Anything less and you are very likely to end up with your corner explaining “what happened” after they wake you up. For Diego, nothing less than the Nightmare will be enough to pull this one-off. He can’t come in soft because he was living the Dream instead of putting himself through a Nightmare in training and want nothing more than to show Jake what it feels like. He needs to want to show his opponent what happens when your lungs are burning and the Nightmare has actually just begun. If not, Diego will be woken from his Dream on the floor of the Octagon.