When Diego Sanchez steps into the ring tonight in his home town of Albuquerque, NM to fight Ross Pearson on the undercard of UFC Fight Night, he'll likely feel more pressure than he's ever felt before. More than the finals of the first ever Ultimate Fighter and more than when he fought for the lightweight title against BJ Penn.
Sanchez, once deemed MMA's future, is finally bringing the UFC to his home town for the first time, as a grizzled veteran. That honor, in addition to fighting in front of so many family and friends, make tonight's battle the biggest ever for "The Nightmare."
"This is more important to me than if I was fighting for the title," Sanchez told reporters during a scrum this week.
"Because, this is my dream. And, this is the last time that I'll be able to fight in front of my 160 family members, all my friends and it's something very special becuase it's the first time UFC's ever come to Albuquerque...it's just really an important night for me."
Sanchez insisted that he is focused on tonight and getting past Pearson. If he does, however, the scrapper said that he knows who he wants to fight next, and where. "My goal is to fight in Mexico," he detailed.
The UFC has another first coming up in November, and Sanchez has one eye on that historic card. For the first time ever, the UFC plans to hold an event in Mexico, with UFC 180 taking place in Mexico City November 15.
"My first dream was to fight here in New Mexico, Albuquerque, my home town. My second dream is to fight in Mexico City," Sanchez said.
"Since The Ultimate Fighter, they always wanted to do Mexico, UFC: Mexico. And, now it's finally happening in November. So, a big win here and I'll be looking to get on the Mexico card."
Sanchez is targeting another top UFC lightweight for that fight - Nate Diaz. Sanchez and Diaz' older brother Nick already had a classic bout at welterweight, nearly a decade ago, and now the Ultimate Fighter 1 winner has a bone to pick with the Ultimate Fighter 5 champ.
"That's the fight I want," Sanchez said of taking on the younger Diaz.
"I've been wanting to fight him for a long time. He's a crybaby. He's a complainer. He's an ingrate and I want to give him a little lesson of humble pie. I want to take him out in Mexico."
Who would you pick in a fight between Diego and Nate? Let us know in the comments section.