June 18, 2009

Diego Sanchez made a surprise appearance on a Thursday media teleconference promoting the Season 9 finale of The Ultimate Fighter. He wasted little time making waves, calling Kenny Florian out.

Sanchez is set to face Clay Guida in the main event of the show, held Saturday at The Palms Pearl Theater in Las Vegas. He characteristically left his title future with the UFC. But in the same breath, he laid the foundation for a rematch with the original T.U.F. alum.

"One of the reasons for me dropping to 155 was the fact that Kenny Florian is coming up on his second title shot, and this is a guy that I walked through four years ago," said Sanchez. "And everybody thinks that, yeah, we've both evolved, we've both changed, we're both different fighters, we've both improved a lot. But the fact is that I walked through him and it wasn't even a fight, and this is the No. 1 contender. So in my mind, I am the number one contender right now."

Guida says he's a contender too if he beats Sanchez.

In April 2005, Sanchez and Florian fought for the first Ultimate Fighter crown on a night widely considered to have given birth to the sport's current popularity. At middleweight, both were fighting heavy; Florian was 30 pounds above scale, while Sanchez was up 15 pounds. The fight was a blowout -- Florian later said he "froze" and called the experience a turning point in his career.

Since that fateful night, both fighters have risen, and fallen, in the ranks of UFC contenders. Sanchez made his mark in the welterweight division before two losses in 2007 motivated a drop to lightweight; Florian dabbled once at 170 pounds before making 155 his home.

To sweeten the pot, Sanchez pitched the rematch as an endpoint to coaching spots for the pair on the eleventh season of the reality show.

"I think that if he wins and I win, that would make a great fight for the fans, and possibly two great coaches for the next season after Rashad and 'Rampage,'" he said. "It would be an awesome rematch. He's going to want a shot at redemption and I want a shot at the title, so it definitely plays out for a good story line."

Then, Sanchez put another twist in the story. He wants B.J. Penn to retain his title against Florian at UFC 101 in August.

"I'm rooting for B.J. Penn," he said. "I would like B.J. Penn to win; that's a guy I've always wanted to fight."

While Sanchez certainly left a lot on the table, his plans would not take focus from this weekend's fight.

"I've got Clay Guida in front of me right now, and that's the only thing my mind is focused on," finished Sanchez. "Putting on the best performance of my career, and going in there and actually earning and proving to people that there is a real number one contender here at 155. I'm here for now and I want to dominate."

For how long -- that's another story.

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