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Diego Sanchez: “I hit rock bottom after the Penn fight, I really did…”

Original TUF champ Diego Sanchez has been viewed as a fairly enigmatic individual since bursting onto the UFC scene six years ago with a raw intensity only matched by his at times curious behavior. Matured by both the battles he’s faced in his personal and professional life, the 29-year old now seems to have found some clarity in his life after returning home to train with Greg Jackson in preparation for his UFC 121 bout with Paulo Thiago.

Sanchez spoke about his journey back to Albuquerque earlier today in a conference call with media where he discussed his newfound love of training, the reason he’s shedding his long-time nickname, and how far down he’d actually sunk after losing in such a clear-cut fashion to B.J. Penn at UFC 107.

“I went through a really rough situation in San Diego that brought me into a lot of emotional depression and that weighed hard on me, and the Penn fight was really hard for me the way I lost – getting cut up, getting hands put on me the way I did,” Sanchez explained of his motivation in moving back to New Mexico. “That never happened to me in my career. So, I had to deal with that and when I came home I moved out of the city and I moved into the mountains and that was the best thing I ever did.”

“I hit rock bottom after the Penn fight, I really did. I blew through all my money. I made bad decisions. Scam artists scammed me real bad. I was in debt over $175,000. I had to come back home. I needed my family’s love. I was humbled 100% back down to zero. I have no ego.”

In reference to his loss to John Hathaway, Sanchez replied he was still in a funk even drinking beer after training and didn’t take the Brit seriously at all. Crediting the isolation with restoring his focus on the sport rather than its trappings, Sanchez also made it clear he’s done cutting down to compete as a lightweight.

“The options are closed for me to ever go down to 155 again,” the 22-4 fighter began on the topic. “I brought in an Olympic wrestler and he’s a big 185 pounder and about an inch taller than me. He’s real big on lifting weights and so we go and we lift weights every day after practice. And we hit it hard…I’m doing power lifts, I’m doing squats, I’m doing kettle lifts…and that’s on top our (regular) training.

“It’s really motivated me to be strong,” Sanchez continued. “In my last fight I was really prepared, I worked hard, but I wasn’t physically strong and that’s something you’ve got to have being a welterweight. That’s something I’ve really worked on and I think fans are going to be surprised when they see the way I look, the way I feel…and the way I’m able to (assert) my will with my physical strength.”

Due to his newfound approach to life and interest in putting the past behind him Sanchez also explained his decision to drop “Nightmare” as his nickname, saying in retrospect he was his own “nightmare”.

“I don’t want to represent that. I want to represent positivity and good…the nightmare was myself. All of the times I fell off track and got into drinking and into smoking weed…the things that brought me down, the partying. That was my nightmare, I was my own nightmare, so you know I said, ‘I’m growing up. I’m gonna let that name go and I just want to be Diego Sanchez. I’m me and that’s it.”

On top of the popular Ultimate Fighter winner’s clash with well-rounded XTreme Couture competitor Kampmann, fans can also catch decorated amateur wrestlers C.B. Dollaway and Mark Munoz mix it up in main card action at “UFC on Versus: Sanchez vs. Kampmann”. The show will go live on Versus at 8:00 PM EST.

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