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Diego Sanchez, a winner on Season 1 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and one of the promotion’s most popular and longest-tenured fighters, has been released by the UFC.
The UFC has been concerned for some time about the behavior of Sanchez’s coach, Joshua Fabia. Sanchez’s release, however, was facilitated because even though Sanchez passed his medicals for a planned May 8 fight versus Donald Cerrone, neither Fabia nor attorney Charles N. Lakins would confirm to the UFC that Sanchez was not suffering from either short-term or long-term medical issues.
Fabia asked a UFC medical coordinator for all of Sanchez’s medical records going back to "The Ultimate Fighter" in 2004. Several UFC employees told Yahoo Sports that they’d seen Fabia berate employees and so they contacted Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s chief business officer.
Campbell called Fabia and Sanchez and in the conversation, Fabia talked about short-term and long-term medical issues Sanchez may have experienced.
That was a red flag for Campbell, who knew that Sanchez had passed a medical examination, which included a brain scan. Campbell then wrote to Sanchez, expressing concerns about Fabia’s comments and asking Sanchez to verify he was OK.
UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports that the UFC could not put a fighter into the cage in good conscience if the fighter wouldn’t say he or she was healthy and fit to fight.
When Lakins responded to Campbell’s request for clarification of Sanchez’s health, Lakins said Sanchez could not respond because he’s not a neurologist and hadn’t seen one. Upon receipt of that response, Sanchez was formally cut in an email sent on April 27.
Dana White unloads on Joshua Fabia
White said Thursday he has an amazing relationship with Sanchez and said he made the Cerrone fight because Sanchez begged him for one more opportunity following a loss to Jake Matthews at UFC 253 in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 27, 2020.
White, though, unloaded on Fabia, who could not be reached for comment.
“I have an incredible, amazing relationship with Diego and I like him very much and I hope he is OK,” White told Yahoo Sports. “One of the sad things that happens, not just in fighting but in sports, and I want you to quote me on this, are these creepy weirdos who come from God knows where and leech onto fighters or athletes. They never do any good for them.
“Somehow, this creep got into Diego’s life and has been controlling him. You saw the video of him chasing guys in the Octagon with a knife. How [expletive] 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 [fighter-broadcaster] production meeting and tells the commentators what they should be saying? The guy is bats*** nuts. He worked his way into Diego’s life and has gotten control over him. I just want the best for Diego.”
Sanchez posted on his Instagram story, “Free at last. Free at last,” and tagged several MMA promotions. Multiple UFC employees told Yahoo Sports they were concerned that Fabia was handling Sanchez’s social media and was controlling his telephone and his email accounts.
There were many issues with Fabia since he became Sanchez’s coach prior to his fight in Las Vegas at UFC 239 against Michael Chiesa on July 6, 2019, that concerned UFC officials.
On the night of the fight, Fabia reportedly told a member of the Nevada Athletic Commission staff that he’d taught Sanchez a choke that, if Sanchez applied it properly, could either paralyze or kill Chiesa. Chiesa won that fight by unanimous decision and Sanchez did not try any holds in the bout that seemed unusual.
Sanchez posted video of Fabia in an Octagon at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas in which the coach held a knife and was chasing fighters around the cage. It was a training method of some sort, but clearly was dangerous and not one employed by other professional MMA trainers.
And on Thursday, Sanchez posted a two-part video on Instagram of his production meeting with UFC broadcasters Jon Anik, Paul Felder and Megan Olivi, as well as members of the production staff.
The second half of the video showed Fabia arguing with the UFC’s broadcasters, complaining there were “millions” of shots taken against him on the internet. He asked the broadcasters to be fair.
The broadcasters said they did not report what fans were saying and couldn’t control the media. They said they were only good to Sanchez in their commentary.
“That’s just completely nuts to do that,” White said of Fabia’s comments to the production team.
Greg Jackson: 'I want what is best for him'
The ignominious release ends Sanchez’s legendary UFC career. Sanchez is 30-13 in MMA and 19-13 in the UFC. He was one of the sport’s most exciting fighters and charismatic figures. His bout with Clay Guida in 2009 was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
He won Fight of the Night seven times and Performance of the Night once. He had notable wins over Kenny Florian, Nick Diaz, Martin Kampmann, Takanori Gomi and Jim Miller.
He fought B.J. Penn for the lightweight title in 2009 but was stopped. He fought at featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight.
Sanchez was trained most of his career by Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. Jackson told Yahoo Sports that he didn’t know Fabia and rarely saw him around the gym.
“I love him to death and I want what is best for him,” Jackson said of Sanchez. “I feel so bad about this. Underneath it all, Diego is just a sweet guy. I want him to have some peace in his life.”
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