You already know about Jackson, the deeply reflective trainer and strategist whose Albuquerque-based MMA team is known not just for its fighting ability but also for its ability to fight in accordance to a game plan. Sanchez trained with Jackson for several years, but it was inevitable that loose-cannon Diego would veer off in a different direction. And he did. And the new direction turned out to be downhill. After going 17-1 with Jackson in his corner, Diego went 4-3 without him.
Now Sanchez is back with Team Jackson. In his first fight since returning to his hometown camp, he dominated a tough Paolo Thiago in October for a unanimous-decision win. His next challenge comes Thursday night in the main event of UFC on Versus 3 (9 p.m. ET, Versus), when he steps in with Martin Kampmann.
"I'm just back to hard work," Sanchez said last week in a media teleconference, "and I want to go into every fight with a mindset that, 'You know what, I already earned this "W," and it's mine.' I'm going to take it."
That's where Tony Robbins comes in. The name and definitely the face will be familiar to you if you've ever slouched on a couch at 3 a.m., flipped on the TV and been too drunk to notice (or care) that you were watching an infomercial. Amid the juicers and knife sets and psychic hot lines and too-good-to-be-true real estate systems was this man, this smiling man, selling positive thinking.
Robbins actually has a lot more going for him than Ron Popeil and the Thigh Master. A onetime teacher of neuro-linguistic programming, he's authored several self-help books, such as Awakening the Giant Within, and led multiday "peak-performance" seminars with names like Date with Destiny. He's the inspiration behind Sanchez walking to the cage yelling "Yes!" every few steps.
Antics like that might look funny, but the effect of a strong, confident mind is no laughing matter. In Diego's case, he'll run through a wall if he believes he can. Of course, strongheadedness will take you only so far. I could watch Tony Robbins DVDs 24/7 until I built up an incontrovertible self-belief, but if I ever dared to step in an MMA cage, I'd get smashed. By Mario Yamasaki, even before my salivating opponent arrived.
Against Kampmann, who is coming off an October split-decision loss to title contender Jake Shields, Sanchez is going to need a Tony Robbins mindset and a Greg Jackson game plan, along with a body performing at its peak after an arduous Team Jackson training camp. And Diego thinks that's exactly what he has going for him right now. He's put past negativity behind him, even shedding his longtime nickname, "The Nightmare," because it's "negative and kind of evil," he said. "I don't want to represent that. I want to represent positivity and I want to represent the good."
Sanchez also wants to represent his hometown of Albuquerque and his fight training guru. "To be back home and Greg Jackson, that guy got so much love for me," said Diego. "He just had his arms open, all the doors open, and said, 'This is your gym, Diego.' So it was a great feeling."
BJ Penn takes Jon Fitch's back twice. Fitch outstrikes Penn, 134-0, in the final round. Michael Bisping illegally knees Jorge Rivera in the head, and after knocking him out later, spits on one of Rivera's cornermen. Dernnis Siver upsets homeland hero George Sotiropoulos.
Lots of interesting things emerged from UFC 127 last Saturday night in Sydney, Australia. But the Fight of the Night was none of the above. The $75,000 checks went to Brian Ebersole and Chris Lytle.
Ebersole, who surprised a lot of people by scoring a unanimous-decision victory over the skillful and dangerous Lytle, probably deserved another 75 grand for Story of the Night. The 30-year-old Midwesterner was making his UFC debut ... after 62 professional fights, with nearly all of them in recent years taking place in his adopted home of Australia.
SI.com caught up with the entertaining fighter via e-mail in the days following his big win.
SI.com: Was the UFC debut worth the wait?
Brian Ebersole: No matter the result, it would have been worth the wait. The feeling, walking out to the Octagon, touching the Octagon for the first time and entering its door. I cannot find the words, but breathtaking and fulfilling are a good start. And with the result of the bout, and subsequent FOTN bonus . . . I'm living in a dream right now. It hasn't all sunk in yet, to be honest.
SI.com: Did you ever think you'd get there?
Ebersole: Yes. I just did not expect it in 2011 after being turned back for UFC 127 and TUF 13 via e-mails from the UFC matchmaker. I relegated myself to a season on the Aussie circuit in the first half of the year, taking a break and assessing the second half of 2011 with a focus on a push for Australia's 2012 UFC event.
But I had faith that I would get a UFC bout before retirement. I have a few good years left. And seeing Antonio McKee gain a UFC debut opportunity [at age 40] gave me hope and confidence. I could have seen myself in his situation, but I'm glad that I was afforded a phone call in this circumstance.
SI.com: What was different about fighting in the UFC?
Ebersole: I was not concerned with when or how I would be compensated. There was a contract and a comforting knowledge that I would indeed be handed a check at the end of the night that would clear, 100 percent.
SI.com: What was most surprising about the experience?
Ebersole: Nothing in particular stuck out as surprising. But Bruce Buffer is bigger in person than he appears on TV. Jorge Rivera's legs are smaller than they appear on TV. And Michael Bisping's accent is easier to understand in person as opposed to on TV.
SI.com: Are you signed for more UFC fights?
Ebersole: I have a four-fight contract. The next three are not guaranteed, as the UFC can fire me at any time (precedence dictates).
SI.com: Will you remain based in Australia?
Ebersole: I have plans to continue to travel the world to seek the best training opportunities, visit family in Illinois, and enjoy a new culture every now and again. But I am in talks with a Melbourne-based group, with the possibility of starting my own program or assisting in theirs. I'd trained at ESS [Earth, Sea, Sky High Performance Training Centre] in Melbourne heading into this UFC bout, and have chatted with them about a return. I have a good opportunity to coach in Australia, and am hoping to couple that with my love of travel -- and figure out a balanced plan that sees me coaching/competing/traveling in a way that will benefit my MMA career and keep me happy, successful and entertained.
SI.com: What's your favorite thing about Australia?
Ebersole: The accent. The cuisine is a close second, with influence from so many cultures and some affordable fine dining to be found. And fresh seafood nearly everywhere.
SI.com: What do you miss most from back home in the U.S.?
Ebersole: Familiarity of family, friends and a small town. I never know where I'm driving in Australia. Would be nice, driving without a GPS every now and again.
SI.com: Lastly, what was up with the arrow design in your chest hair? Weren't you concerned that the arrow was pointing at your chin, giving Lytle a target?
Ebersole: I was hoping that I would make it "so easy" that Lytle's concentration might slip, and leave me with an escape. Maybe it worked?
Thought maybe I'd have an expose to report for you when I received this e-mail:
While Tito Ortiz recently had to pull out of his fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Fight Night 24 on March 26th in Seattle because of a head-butt incident, he seemed to be in good spirits and not visibly wounded just a couple days after the "accident." Ortiz, who reportedly received 22 stitches to the head, was joking with photographers and sipping [PRODUCT NAME DELETED] when he showed up to a pre-Oscar event just this past weekend. This only leads one to wonder, is Tito afraid of a Nogueira face-off?
The e-mail concluded with an offer to send me a hi-res file of an attached photo, which depicted Tito sipping from a bottle strategically held so the logo was legible. And, yes, the product name was in the e-mail, although I'm not giving out free publicity. However, as annoyed as I am that a PR person would send me a product pitch in the guise of a phony news tip, I have to think Tito will be even more peeved when he catches wind of this. I assume he has an endorsement deal with this drink company, but is the compensation worth having his character questioned? Who writes this company's PR pitches, Chuck Liddell?
• "We just ran out of time. I didn't find a venue that we thought would work for everybody, so we decided to move it." --Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, explaining to ESPN.com's Josh Gross why he's postponing the second leg of his promotion's Heavyweight Grand Prix quarterfinals (Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers) to June 18 in Dallas.
This news shows Strikeforce in not a good light. Sure, Coker's promotion is salvaging the original April 9 date with a strong double bill of title fights (welterweight champion Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley and lightweight belt holder Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri). But the Grand Prix is dangerously close to slipping into Farce Land, with the quarterfinals spread so far apart. It's all because several states won't touch the tainted Barnett, and his presence will continue to give this tournament a black eye, especially if he gets his hands on the title belt.
• "Bisping's conduct after he was awarded the TKO is not acceptable. Taunting and spitting at and on Jorge's coach Matt Phinney is the deplorable conduct of a schoolyard bully. And like all bullies, Mr. Bisping needs to be punished. In this instance, it would be appropriate if Bisping is fined and suspended by the commission and/or the UFC." --Lex McMahon, manager of Jorge Rivera, in an e-mail to MMAFighting.com in the wake of Saturday's night's contentious bout.
I'm no Michael Bisping fan, but sorry, Lex, this is the pot calling the kettle black. It was your camp that dragged this fight into the gutter. Phinney, Rivera's boxing coach, was a prominent co-star in the fighter's classless YouTube videos mocking Bisping, and according to the Brit's management, the Rivera entourage continued to bait "The Count" at the hotel in Sydney in the days leading up to the fight. And after Bisping felled Rivera with an illegal knee during the fight, Phinney launched an expletive-filled verbal assault from cageside. All of which is not to vindicate Bisping for spitting in Phinney's direction, but it's not like he was expectorating on the Dalai Lama. Rivera and his backup singers have no right to play the victims now.