Picking a fight that embodies everything I love about mixed martial arts and the UFC is easy, especially right now. It’s Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez.
I’m usually pretty quick to move on to the next thing, the next fight, but a few weeks have passed since that night in Houston, and I still find myself thinking about the fight. I had to fly to Abu Dhabi for a meeting a few weeks later, and it was still on my mind.
I got back home after the trip and planned to get some rest, but I’m not a big sleep guy. I slept maybe five hours before I woke up and went to play around and maybe watch something in the theater room of my house. I ended up catching the HBO boxing documentary about the three Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward fights.
Sanchez and Melendez was our Gatti vs. Ward. Those two guys were just total warriors who kept coming forward and throwing everything they had at each other. The fight showed what’s so great about Mexican fighters—their spirit, their will, their desire. It was bloody and back-and-forth, but nothing was going to stop those guys. It was a war that night.
Diego Sanchez has always been one of my favorite fighters to watch. The guy is a maniac and brings it every time.
I’m on Twitter during the fight in the first round, and everyone is telling me he’s washed up. He’s done. He shouldn’t be in this fight. He’s getting hit pretty easily in the second round, too, but I know you can never count Diego out.
The same people are tweeting at me in the third round when he comes back, saying that this is the best fight they’ve ever seen. I’ve lost control by then and barely know what’s going on. The entire arena is cheering, celebrating and so excited. When Diego dropped him with that punch in the third round, I jumped out of my seat. It was one of the loudest roars I’ve ever heard.
I never go into the cage unless it’s a title fight to put the belt on the champion. But I ran in there after this one. I had to congratulate those guys. I was giving high-fives and yelling at [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta].
I even came over to the media and was yelling. How many times have you seen me do that?
I don’t mean to talk so much more about Diego. It’s just that he’s done it so many times in the UFC. Gilbert was a warrior, too. Here’s a guy who had everything go against him in trying to get to the UFC for the last couple years. Then he loses a close title fight in his first fight over here. To do what he did against Diego in his second fight shows how hungry this kid is.
I’ve got so much respect for both guys, and that’s what I told them after the fight. They’re fighters. They’ve got something the rest of us don’t have, and that’s why we love being a part of it.