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Diego Sanchez might be enjoying one of the best stretches of his long and illustrious UFC career.
“The Nightmare” heads into Saturday’s UFC 239 fight vs. Michael Chiesa riding a two-fight winning streak and plans to prove his worth to the UFC. He is on the final fight of his contract and believes it’s time that the promotion to pay up.
While Sanchez admits that he’d love to finish his career in the UFC, he believes he’s at a point where he has some serious negotiating power.
“This my last fight on my contract, and Sean Shelby tried to get me to sign some more, and that’s all great. I’ve been doing that for 17 years,” Sanchez told MMA Junkie Radio. “Now I’m finally in that position to put myself in a point of leverage, and I value myself very high. I’m a pioneer, I’m a legend, I’m a Hall of Famer now.”
“A lot of years on the shelf, hard work, blood, sweat, tears, everything for the company,” Sanchez added. “Company man, the definition of a company man. Go to war for this company, a warrior.”
And if the UFC doesn’t pay Sanchez what he believes he’s worth, the 37-year-old has no problem fighting for another promotion that will.
“After this fight is over, the UFC bank is going to have to pay out, too, because I’m going to find out what my value is,” Sanchez said. “If I have to find out in Bellator or in other organization, I want to see.”
A win over Chiesa at UFC 239 would definitely help his case. And while that’s no easy task, Sanchez knows he’s being heavily underestimated.
And that’s nothing new for him. He’s ready to prove the doubters wrong.
“I’m not the old man Michael Chiesa thinks I am,” Sanchez said. “He thinks he’s fighting an old man, and that’s why he wanted that fight so bad, but he’s fighting a real man. He’s going to find out on Saturday that the little fight with Mickey Gall was just a tuneup. I was just finally starting to get my stride, barely getting out of my divorce, barely getting back on track. Things are full stride now.”
Sanchez recently made the surprise announcement that he left Jackson Wink MMA. He didn’t think he was getting the individual attention that he needed and is ready to show the new version of himself.
“I’m moving different, I’m fighting different, I’ve completely reinvented myself,” Sanchez said. “I left Jackson Wink. That chapter just got closed. I promise you this fight, it’s a new Diego. I fight every fight like it’s my last fight. That’s been a huge key to my success.”
And don’t try to tell Sanchez to call it quits. After more than 14 years with the UFC, he’s never valued himself more. Constantly underestimated, he pays no mind to the oddsmakers. He plans on finishing Chiesa in the first round, which would make it hard to deny him the pay raise he’s looking for.
“I know I love fighting and that I have more passion and corazon for this sport than any other fighter in the UFC that ever stepped in the octagon,” Sanchez said. “I’m going to let everyone in the UFC, everyone in the world and in the universe know my value come Saturday night.”
UFC 239 takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.
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