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The Diego Sanchez train may have made its last stop in the UFC, but the car that carries all the drama continues to barrel forward.
And the majority of that drama seems to consistently be centered on Sanchez’s coach, Joshua Fabia.
Sanchez on Friday published on his Instagram account a video of a recorded phone conversation, reportedly from April 9, between Fabia and the UFC’s chief legal officer, Hunter Campbell. “Smoking Gun conversation with UFC Lawyer,” Sanchez posted with the video. “Listen to it for yourself… None of this is normal fans, friends, family, fighters and casuals🙏🏼”
The gist of the conversation – which runs around 7 minutes long and culminates with what sounds like Fabia and purportedly Sanchez laughing after ending the call – is Campbell’s concern about a request Fabia made to someone in the UFC’s medical office for all the fighter’s records throughout his history with the promotion.
That request, Campbell said on the call, meant he had to ask Sanchez and Fabia if Sanchez was not prepared, either physically or mentally, for his co-main event fight against Donald Cerrone. That fight was scheduled for May 8 before Sanchez was pulled from the fight earlier this week, and subsequently released by the UFC.
“The direct quote I received was, you stated that the quote ‘long-term effects of Diego being an MMA fighter’ were your basis for requesting it,” Campbell said to Fabia on the call. “So I went through this with (former UFC fighter) Mark Hunt, and here’s the reality: If you’re concerned or (Sanchez is) concerned that he’s having negative effects, then we’re not going to fight him and I’m going to pull the fight right now and we’re going to call it a day and we’ll release him and he can go do something else with his life, because I’m not putting anybody in that cage that doesn’t feel 100 percent or thinks they’re suffering from any medical issues.”
That seems to be what Sanchez’s post referred to as “the smoking gun” – that Campbell made reference to releasing him, which came to fruition. But what appears to be the reality is, Fabia’s request to the UFC’s medical staff triggered the red flag that led to Campbell, along with UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, reaching out to find out if Sanchez was having issues they needed to know about.
“Well, it has more to do with how is his physical body, and all the treatments that he’s had over 17 years of injuries in his hands, his face, and all over his body that I’m referring to,” Fabia said. “If he needs medical attention after his career, how is he supposed to move on without medical records? That’s what I’m concerned about. That’s all it is. If he has to go see another doctor about his hip or his back or any of these things, how is that doctor – why would we have to pay for new imaging, new everything, when it should be on file? I don’t understand what the problem is.”
Fabia also expressed aggravation over what he said was the UFC’s request for information from the Sanchez side less than four weeks from the fight. He wondered why those requests weren’t made 10 or 12 weeks before the fight, after it was signed.
If Fabia didn’t understand what the problem is, Campbell made it more clear with his response.
“Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to send an email to you guys,” Campbell said. “I’m going to express my concerns. I need a confirmation in writing that he’s physically able to compete, he’s not suffered any ill effects of being an MMA fighter, he doesn’t feel like he has any brain issues or cognitive issues. I’ve got to go through the whole battery that I do with everybody that sort of makes a claim that at least they’re telling me that you made in this situation. And if he’s not comfortable doing that, then we pull the fight and we move on. It’s very simple.
“… I can’t ever be in a situation where 10 years from now, I’ve got a guy that’s drooling on himself in a hospital, and I’ve got another guy saying, ‘Yeah, we told the UFC before his last fight that he was having all these issues and they put him in there anyway.'”
Fabia said Sanchez was not having any issues from a medical standpoint.
“We’ll jump through whatever hoops you need,” Fabia said. “Diego is 100 percent fine, as he is here with me right now. He’s fine, man. Everything’s good.”
According to a report from Yahoo! Sports, Sanchez passed his pre-fight medical tests and was cleared to fight. But after Campbell emailed Sanchez’s attorney, the way he described in the call with Fabia, and asked for written confirmation from Sanchez that he was not having medical issues, the response was insufficient enough that it apparently prompted Sanchez’s release from the UFC.
Sanchez was paid his full show money, plus his scheduled win bonus and athlete outfitting pay – even though he didn’t fight, Yahoo! reported.
Thursday, Sanchez released video from UFC 253 this past fall showing Fabia confronting the UFC’s broadcast team in Abu Dhabi ahead of his fight with Jake Matthews. Prior to that, he released video showing Fabia furious at the airport in Las Vegas after the Sanchez team apparently was left behind by the UFC’s transportation upon return from Abu Dhabi.
And later in the day, Sanchez posted that he was “free at last” and tagged Bellator, ONE Championship, BKFC and others to alert them of his free agency.
Fabia has been under fire essentially the entirety of his time spent coaching Sanchez. He reportedly ran afoul of the Nevada Athletic Commission when he said before Sanchez’s fight with Michael Chiesa that Sanchez knew a move that could kill Chiesa. Then there was the video of him posted online running at fighters with a knife in the cage as an apparent defensive technique drill.
In Abu Dhabi for UFC 253, Fabia confronted former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra in a restaurant for not knowing who he was, not mentioning him in an interview, and being disrespected over that. And in the video released earlier this week showing Fabia and Sanchez dressing down the UFC 253 broadcast crew after Sanchez’s interview with them, that storyline of Fabia saying he’s not respected continued.
Sanchez, who was a longtime member of the Jackson-Wink camp in Albuquerque, N.M., before leaving to train with Fabia, has defended his coach to the quick on repeat, saying any criticism of him is “disrespectful.”
UFC president Dana White this week told Yahoo! Sports that Fabia is “batsh*t nuts.”
“Somehow, this creep got into Diego’s life and has been controlling him,” White told the site. “You saw the video of him chasing guys in the octagon with a knife. How f*cking nuts is that? He goes to the commission and tells them that he’s taught Diego this death touch. It goes on and on with this guy. He goes into the production meeting and tells the commentators what they should be saying? The guy is batsh*t nuts. He worked his way into Diego’s life and has gotten control over him. I just want the best for Diego.”