Diego Sanchez’s former coach and mentor Joshua Fabia has accused the UFC of attempting to set up a reason to retire the welterweight veteran during his latter years in the promotion.
While coaches enter the spotlight and draw headlines for a number of reasons in MMA, whether for great corner work and training or for controversial corner tactics, not many have had as bizarre a presence in the sport’s limelight as the founder of the School of Self-Awareness.
Having formed a partnership with Fabia towards the back-end of his UFC career, the attitude of the MMA community towards Sanchez quickly went from one of admiration to one of concern.
As well as his cornering and training of “The Nightmare” coming under fire, Fabia was also criticized for multiple altercations he had with UFC figures. That included a verbal spat with Matt Serra and an awkward debate with the broadcast team during a fighter meeting, as well as recording conversations he had with matchmaker Sean Shelby and UFC executive Hunter Campbell.
After Fabia clashed with several individuals prior to Sanchez’s scheduled retirement fight with Donald Cerrone last year, the TUF 1 victor was released from the UFC and his partnership with Fabia came to a bitter end. Since the end of their relationship, Fabia has accused Sanchez of taking advantage of him.
Now, in an interview with Talkin’ MMA, the former coach has shone a light on what he perceived to be wrongdoing on the part of the UFC during Sanchez’s final fights in the Octagon.
At UFC 239 in 2019, Sanchez faced Michael Chiesa. Fabia highlighted the matchup as his first experience witnessing the promotion’s attempt to create an excuse for cutting Sanchez from the roster.
Citing the veteran’s busy schedule pre-fight and speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony, Fabia claimed the UFC did what it could to ensure Sanchez got his “ass kicked” on fight night, allowing them to move closer to being able to justify a release.
“First we do the morning weigh-in… Done. So we go from there, I think we had a few hours, I got to feed him, he got to take a small nap. Then, four o’clock, we’ve gotta be back at the mobile arena for the official weigh-in,” recalled Fabia. “So we get over there, we do the official weigh-in, and then literally go back to the hotel, change, don’t have time for food, and gotta go to the Hall of Fame ceremony. That goes on till like 11:30… Then I gotta feed him, he’s high on adrenaline of giving a speech. But he didn’t get to enjoy it, he didn’t get to go out.. He had to go to the hotel room and try to get his mind right for the fight the next day.
“The play is what? Get Diego to get his ass kicked so that we can retire him and it all makes sense. That’s what the play of the UFC was,” claimed Fabia. “That’s why all the odds are against him. This is all it was. The UFC’s been trying to get rid of Diego well before I came around. The old rule was lose (three) and you’re out. Diego was always losing one, losing two… he would never lose three in a row. Because he kept getting back in the win column, they didn’t have a proper reason to cut him… So, they tried to set it up. The best weigh to do that is you get finished, you get hurt bad.”
Sanchez went on to drop a comfortable unanimous decision to Chiesa. Fabia believes that set the ball rolling for the UFC’s goal to sabotage the New Mexico native’s place on the roster.
Fabia: UFC Wouldn’t Let Sanchez Fight Maia Or Pettis
Discussing the months and years that followed the Chiesa loss, Fabia claimed that the promotion deliberately matched Sanchez up against 23 to 24-year-olds who boasted significant size and reach advantages, hoping to set “The Nightmare” on a losing streak.
“Look at what happened after Chiesa. Diego fought nothing but 23 and 24-year-olds. We’re talking 13-year difference. Guys with four to five-inch reach difference. This is just the situation that I was dealing with,” said Fabia. “And this is why nobody would give me credit for anything that I did, when Diego was supposed to get finished and hurt, and booted out of there. They just wanted to use me as the scapegoat, ‘Well that’s the reason, must be that guy.’ Not that you’re not giving him fair competition.”
After falling to defeat against Chiesa, Sanchez faced then-26-year-old Michel Pereira. Having had his hand raised following the Brazilian’s disqualification, Sanchez went on to share the cage with Jake Matthews, also aged 26 at the time, in what proved to be his final Octagon outing.
While he perhaps exaggerated the ages, later going on to describe them as ’20-year-old bucks’, Pereira and Matthews were a lot younger than the opponents Fabia and Sanchez had targeted.
According to the controversial coach, the UFC wouldn’t allow Sanchez to face either Demian Maia or Anthony Pettis, despite both verbally agreeing to face “The Nightmare.” Fabia sees that as more evidence that the UFC wanted to set up his former pupil with young opposition in order to ensure he’d be hurt and beaten.
“Diego didn’t get to fight Pettis, he didn’t get to fight Maia, and we had those fights lined up with those fighters. Somehow, someway, the UFC just wouldn’t let it happen,” Fabia continued. “Those would have been fights where you would’ve been able to see the things I was training Diego. It’s hard to see how much he’s learning when the size disadvantage, and he’s gonna look slow compared to a young 20-year-old buck.”
Now that his strange entanglement with Fabia is firmly in the rear-view mirror, Sanchez is looking to return to his old ways inside and outside the cage, something fans saw a glimpse of at Eagle FC 46 last month.
Against fellow former UFC fighter Kevin Lee, Sanchez put on an entertaining main event. While he fell short on the scorecards, “The Nightmare” certainly showed the “real Diego Sanchez,” as he put it in his post-fight interview.
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