Diego "The Nightmare" Sanchez is focused on Josh Koscheck.
He ought to be. Every time Sanchez steps into the Octagon, he puts his perfect MMA record (17-0 overall, 6-0 UFC) on the line. He risks moving backward in the line for a UFC welterweight title shot. He risks losing the momentum he's gained from beating every guy UFC has placed in his path since he won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2005.
All of those risks are present for Diego Sanchez as he prepares for UFC 69 in Houston on April 7, where Sanchez will fight Koscheck, his former TUF1 training partner. But there's an even bigger issue underscoring this particular fight.
Sanchez and Koscheck really, really dislike each other. For one of them, a loss at UFC 69 will bruise their ego and empower their hated rival all at once.
In this candid interview, Diego Sanchez describes how the rift developed between himself and Josh Koscheck, and responds to some of the accusations Koscheck made about his family in another recent CBS SportsLine interview. Sanchez also discusses Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta's purchase of Pride Fighting Championships, what it means to him personally, and his prospects for a UFC title shot.
Q. You're undefeated right now, and I know you plan to stay that way. Do you feel any pressure with that?
DS: Oh yeah, there's plenty of pressure that comes with being undefeated. This is a question that gets asked of me a lot, actually. I'm looking at the big picture, and the big picture is creating a legacy and fulfilling my dream of being (an) undefeated champion, and doing stuff that other men have not been able to do in MMA, you know. Just like "The Natural" Randy Couture, you know, going in there and beating Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title. Stuff like that, you know. Randy is never gonna be forgotten.
Also, the way I think -- the way I feel -- being undefeated is special, and I want to stay like that. The pressure is always going to be increasing every fight, but ... you know, it's always going to be the same. I'm always going in there for war, to battle, and just trusting in god that I've trained harder and that I'm a more skilled athlete than my opponent, and I've got more heart. If I've got that on my side, then I shouldn't have to worry. I should be able to go in there and get that W.
Q. After your last fight with Joe Riggs, and after a lot of your fights, you seem like you almost meditate. Can you describe what you're doing there?
DS: Yeah. The thing is, when I'm going out to that ring, sometimes the crowd puts off this energy. It's different sometimes, but you know, sometimes the energy is just so awesome that you can feel it. So me, as another energy form, I just try to absorb that energy and let the fans be one with me, and let them guide me and make me stronger. I'm just soaking in that energy and putting that into my fighting ability.
Q. Tell me about Josh Koscheck, your opponent coming up at UFC 69.
DS: What do I think of him?