Diego Sanchez is the very definition of a UFC veteran. He’s been with the promotion since 2005, has amassed a 13 & 5 record and has been involved in more than a few glorious wars. He is without a doubt a tough and tenacious fighter, and one that comes to either give or take the beating. His ultra-aggressive style has won him four fight-of-the-night bonuses and an army of loyal and devoted fans, and it’s all premised on one thing, Diego Sanchez always comes to fight.

This coming October 19th in Houston, Sanchez again takes to the Octagon to face one of the toughest opponents of his career in the way of Gilbert Melendez, at UFC 166. The two will undoubtedly put on a great bout and will, in all likelihood, be the odds-on favorite for taking the fight-of-the-night bonus.

For Sanchez, this is a very important fight and one that could put him back on the map in terms of rankings and contender status, at 155 pounds. If he can beat the number two ranked Melendez, Diego should easily vault on to the top-ten rankings list and demonstrate himself to be one of the best fighters in the division.

The problem for Sanchez is that since his loss to Penn back in December of 2009, he’s been a hit-and-miss fighter and one who hasn’t been able to make up his mind on what weight division to be in; lightweight or welterweight. As it stands now, Sanchez is making his home at 155 and as such, is marking his second consecutive fight in the weight class, since moving back down in March of this year.

For me, lightweight seems to be the better fit and his natural home. As talented and tough as Diego is and regardless of his wins at welterweight, Sanchez is simply too small for the division. Yes, he can score some wins at 170, however, he’s not apt to win the big fights against the guys that he’d need to beat at the higher weight class. However, at 155, Diego has all the tools required to work his way to a title shot.

In lead up to the fight, the UFC has put out a promo piece on “The Dream” and in it Diego looks happy, healthy, centered and content. He’s also a much more humble guy and appreciative of the difficult lessons life has taught him.

In the video, Diego is brutally honest about the mistakes he’s made and the opportunities he’s blown. In his retrospection, Diego comes across as someone who’s been very disappointed in himself and one that learned some tough lessons.

He makes note of his ego and how he let it get the better of him, how his best friend robbed him of 150K and how his wife, child and a return to Greg Jackson’s Albuquerque camp has turned his life around. However, as Diego puts it, he had to “hit rock bottom to snap out of the life (he) was living.”  

To drive home the point of how much he’s changed, Sanchez pointed to a picture of himself when he was first starting out in MMA and said, “if I could tell that young Diego Sanchez anything, anything,…(pauses) it wouldn’t matter, because he wouldn’t listen, anyway.” In saying it, Diego had the hint of satisfaction on his face, but a look of regret in his eyes.

However, as he knows he can’t reach out to that young kid and straighten him out, he also knows that the man he is today doesn’t need to be straightened out. He has become a grounded family man, devoted husband and loving dad, and these are the things that he fights for now and the things that fill his life. Gone are the late night parties, the bad influences, the lousy friends and the life of a “single bachelor”. In their place, his family, old coach and teammates, and a new found sense of purpose and focus.

If you’re a fan of Diego’s or just fighters in general, you’ll enjoy this video. In it, Diego is as honest as I’ve ever seen a fighter be and he pulls no punches in his assessment of himself, and what needed to be changed in his life.

Sanchez / Melendez are the third bout from the top of the card, at UFC 166 and could well be the show stealing fight of the event. This is one of the fights in 2013 that no MMA fan will want to miss; best of luck to both combatants.