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Diego Sanchez freed from pressure of chasing UFC title: ‘I’ve let go all those dreams’

The UFC title is no longer the end goal for Diego Sanchez.

The winner of Season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter” has walked away from his dream of becoming a UFC champion and he’s now focused on enjoying the final chapter of his storied career. Sanchez (30-12 MMA, 19-12 UFC) fights on Saturday against Jake Matthews (15-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) at UFC 253.

Sanchez’s new mindset towards his fighting career has given him a breath of fresh air.

“I’m bringing a new mindset to fighting, life and everything,” Sanchez told reporters, including MMA Junkie, on Wednesday at UFC 253 media day. “I’ve let go all those dreams of becoming a UFC champion. I’m just here to enjoy the experience and finish out these four fights on legendary status. I’m trying to go out as good as I came in if not better.”

UFC 253 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+.

The chase for the title is one that most fighters have in mind. Sanchez believes the pressure those aspirations brought to his career limited his enjoyment of fighting and life.

“It’s just a removal of an invisible pressure I might’ve put on myself,” Sanchez said. “It was something that was self created in believing that it was my destiny to become a UFC champion. Now, I’ve removed that pressure and I’m just doing my thing, man. I’m just doing my thing, doing it my way outside the box. Like I’ve said before, I’m enjoying life.

“The pandemic was a great thing for me. I got rest that I’ve never ever had in my 17 year span of fighting with the UFC and chasing this invisible dream of becoming a UFC champion. I never game myself rest. I went from camp to camp to camp, from injury to injury to injury, to camp to camp, to marriage to a divorce, and now I’m settled. I got my feet on the ground. I’m grounded. I’m getting my electrons from the mother, I’m feeling good.”

Sanchez knows the end is near for his fighting career. He plans to fight out the last four fights of his UFC contract and walk away from competition. The 38-year-old hopes to give back to the world in his post-career life through his mentor Joshua Fabia’s “School of Self-Awareness.”

“I’m looking forward to being done,” Sanchez said. “That way I can let this part of my life go and start the new chapter of what I have in the horizon with ‘School of Self Awareness’ and what me and my mentor Joshua Fabia are doing.

“It’s something different. It’s not martial arts, but life is a lot bigger than UFC and martial arts and hurting people. I want to give back to the world, help this place, help humanity.”

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