Diego Sanchez Wants to Beat Ellenberger, and Then: ‘Carlos Condit is the Fight I Want’

Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger (Josh Hedges/UFC)

TUF 1 winner fights in UFC on Fuel main event

OMAHA, Neb. – As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow, there will be athletes who get caught up in the trappings that come with their success. Just as we’ve seen in every major sport, lives change seemingly overnight – and there are those who lose themselves in the whirlwind of fame and fortune.

Diego Sanchez walked that line. But now he’s found his footing, spiritually and physically, and is looking to become the best version of the man and fighter the world of MMA has ever seen.

“Positivity is a way of life, and you have to find a way to stay positive through the negative things you experience,” Sanchez told HeavyMMA. “It’s all in how you look at things. It’s definitely a big part of my life because if you let negativity set in, it will kill you from the inside out.”

Sanchez spoke with HeavyMMA about a range of topics, including getting clean, his spirituality – and the fight he really wants after he faces Jake Ellenberger in the UFC on Fuel main event Wednesday night: teammate Carlos Condit.

On his spirituality …
“As far as a new or fresh start, this is a new beginning for me. I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ, and did it in a way that I’ve never done before. I’ve always had God in my life (and) believed in Jesus, but I never wanted to live by His rules. I always wanted to do things my own way, not His way, and I suffered a lot of consequences because of it. I had things happen to me in my life. When you finally reach a place called rock bottom, throughout your trials and tribulations, you find it. Whether it be where you find out you just got cancer, a brain tumor, or were going to lose a child, or whatever tribulation may hit you is when you really turn to God. For me it wasn’t any of those things but I lost control of my life. I was partying a lot, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. It was a rock star lifestyle, and it totally took me to the very bottom. The more extreme I got with it, the further and further I dug myself into the pit. When I reached the bottom, I realized this was too big of a task for me to accomplish by myself. It was all too much. There was so much weighing against me, and that’s when I turned to God. I believe Jesus Christ is the one true God. Because of my faith, I believe He completely turned my life around.”

On curbing his fast-living lifestyle …
“Even though I haven’t been in the cage, I’ve been changing every aspect of my life. I moved, got married, settled down and stopped partying. I don’t go to clubs or drink. I changed the music I listen to and left it all behind me. I’m truly living for God and my family right now. Fighting is not only what I do for a living, but I feel it was what I was born to do. Fighting is a big part of my testimony and I have a lot of fans out there that love my heart and the way I fight. Now I’m going out there and fighting for more than just a win bonus or championship belt. Now I’m fighting for all the people out there. I want to send a message, spread the good news to all the people that there is a chance at everlasting life. There is a chance to overcome the odds. That chance comes through submitting and surrendering to God. He saved me, and I know there are a lot of people going through hard times out there.”

On his home gym with Greg Jackson …
“I’ve seen everything in MMA. I’ve been here through all of it, and it’s been awesome. I’m very happy to be fighting out of Greg Jackson’s camp because there are so many good fighters there. You know when you are on the decline or incline. You know when you are at the top of the gym and when you’re sharp or off your game. I’m grateful that we have a gym in my home town that is known to be one of the best in the world.”

On his hope to fight teammate, interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit
“There is no situation. Carlos and I have known each other for 10 years. We’ve trained together a lot over the years, and I love that fight. Stylistically, it’s a great matchup for me – and I think it’s a fight that plays largely into my hands. (I’m) not looking past Ellenberger. He’s the No. 1 thing in my vision. But after I beat him, Condit is the fight I want. We are both from Albuquerque, and we need to find out who the true champion of Albuquerque is. I know the answer. There are other people who know, as well. They’ve seen who has won the rounds between us over these past 10 years. Carlos and I both know, and that is why I think it’s a great fight for me. I have to go in there and take care of Jake Ellenberger. If a fight with Georges (St-Pierre) or Carlos comes after, then it does. I take it one fight at a time and I’ll deal with whoever God puts in my path.”

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