Diego Sanchez is one of the original Ultimate Fighters. In fact, he is the original Ultimate Fighter winner. He’s been at this MMA game for over a decade and had perhaps one of his most entertaining fights at UFC 166, but it should be the last time we see one of the UFC greats step in the Octagon.

Watching his fight with Gilbert Melendez, I was amazed throughout the full 15 minutes. From Sanchez securing the back of Melendez early in the first round, to the back-and-forth action throughout the contest, and finally when Sanchez landed a massive uppercut that nearly ended Melendez’s night, it was captivating stuff. Another astounding item of note was the fact that Sanchez took a number of blows that should’ve dropped a normal human being. Sanchez, though, was able to shrug them off like they were nothing more than just a “flesh wound.”

It’s not the first time we’ve seen Sanchez walk through a barrage of knockout-worthy blows. The original TUF winner has become one of the more well-known and well-liked fighters to compete in the UFC. And it’s in large part due to his numerous wars. Sanchez will forever be remembered for his absolute war with Clay Guida back in 2009, not to mention his bloody battles with Martin Kampmann and Melendez.

Unfortunately for the Greg Jackson product, he’ll be remembered for his biggest failures inside the cage as well. Dropping down to 155 pounds meant not only facing a faster opponent, but often times it also meant that Sanchez’s biggest fight was with the scales. Sanchez has only officially missed weight once, but it always seemed to be a struggle for the longtime welterweight fighter.

Sanchez’s losses to B.J. Penn and John Hathaway have also haunted the 31-year-old for years. Sanchez explained that his personal life spiraled out of control after the bloody beatdown Penn gave him. He credits the spiral in contributing to the loss to Hathaway as well. But Sanchez was able to put all that behind him and has gone a respectable 3-2 while facing stiff competition in his last five outings.

So why should a guy who has finally overcome so much adversity and just had a “Fight of the Year” candidate hang up the gloves?

All you have to do is listen to Sanchez’s post-fight speech with Joe Rogan again. There’s your answer.

We’ve seen this with UFC greats like Chuck Liddell and with boxing legends as well. In those cases, they were the victim of some vicious knockouts which have clearly affected the number of brain cells they have. Sanchez has never been knocked out. His only TKO loss was the result of the referee stopping the fight due to a massive gash on his forehead. But there’s no denying he’s received a number of shots that should’ve turned off the lights. For the sake of his brain cells alone, Sanchez should consider stepping away. Nobody can question the man’s toughness or ability as a fighter. He’s accomplished a great deal in his career, and despite having some regrets, he can still look back on his career with satisfaction.

Along with the argument of Sanchez hanging it up to save his remaining brain cells, Sanchez has to consider where he stands in the lightweight and welterweight divisions. He isn’t ranked and was clearly outclassed against Melendez at UFC 166. While Sanchez swung from the hip throughout the contest, Melendez stayed out of range and responded by landing numerous hard strikes. Just look at the FightMetric numbers if you want further evidence that Melendez-Sanchez was a more one-sided affair than it may have seemed at first viewing. Sanchez has effectively become an entertaining gatekeeper in whichever division he chooses to compete in, but that’s the ceiling for the New Mexico native.

With virtually no hope for a title shot, what else does Sanchez have left to prove? He’ll always be featured on main cards due to the excitement he brings in the cage, but is it worth not being able to speak clearly? Is it worth suffering numerous other mental disabilities associated with brain trauma?

At some point fighters (and their coaches) need to see the bigger picture. After so many years of fighting being the only thing that mattered, there comes a time when life after fighting needs to be the top concern. Sanchez will be remembered fondly by much of the MMA fan base, but let’s hope he can remember his career as well.

Photo: Diego Sanchez (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.