Diego Sanchez and Greg Jackson: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Five minutes into his UFC 121 bout Saturday against Paulo Thiago, Diego Sanchez was approaching his third consecutive loss.
Thiago had scored a key trip in the first round and also threatened with a brabo choke to gain the upper hand. Greg Jackson, Sanchez’s trainer, was not worried.
“In between the first and the second round, I asked [Sanchez] for a little more pressure, and he told me he was just warming up the first round,” Jackson said Monday on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “I felt pretty confident going into the second round. In typical Diego fashion, he turned it on and was able to come out victorious.”
Sanchez out-scrambled his opponent in the second. Thiago hit a fantastic sweep, but Sanchez instantly picked him up, carried him across the cage while screaming and then planted him into the canvas. It was the fight’s defining moment. It was also the type of energetic display Jackson sees from Sanchez regularly in training.
“Oh yeah,” Jackson said when asked if his fighter screams in the gym as well. “He loves screaming and yelling, which is entertaining for me. I love it. It just cracks me up to no end. If he gets hit real hard, he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, come on. I love it.’ He loves fighting so much. It’s such a passionate thing for him that it comes out in his movements and his voice and everything about him.”
Jackson explained that he handles Sanchez in the corner a little differently than a Georges St. Pierre or a Nate Marquardt, for instance.
“You have to tailor it to the individual artist,” Jackson said. “With Diego, with Carlos Condit, there’s a few guys you need to be a little more animated [with], a little more excited for. … Not too much more. You don’t want to get them so amped that they eat lightning or anything.”
Jackson’s approach with Sanchez worked. He took it to Thiago in the third round as well, earning a unanimous decision for a win in his first fight back with the Jackson camp.
Sanchez had climbed the ladder with the New Mexico-based team before joining ranks with Saulo Ribeiro in 2007. A lightweight title run culminated in a December 2009 loss to champion B.J. Penn, but the low point for Sanchez came in May when John Hathaway thoroughly outpointed him.
“After the Hathaway fight, Diego came back to us and was able to get a lot of his peers, a lot of his guys back sparring him and wrestling with him,” Jackson said. “I think it makes a big difference who your teammates are and who can push you in the gym. I mean really push you and get you used to being exhausted and peaked out.”
Fans and pundits alike have observed that Sanchez delivered a quintessential performance. Jackson believes that’s how Sanchez should fight as well: “When you get a guy like that in love with fighting again, in love with technique, in love with pushing and really going for it, I think that’s the best Diego you’re going to see.”
In fact, the fighter Jackson saw Saturday reminded him of the one he’d brought up in his gym long before it was seen as the best camp in MMA.
“It was always his home, and I said that when he decided to leave: ‘It will always be your home.’ Having him back and having such a great performance -- like I said, he makes me laugh and smile every day. He walks in and he’s screaming and running around,” Jackson said. “It really felt like old times.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:00:48) with Greg Jackson, who also discussed Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and why he was impressed with Jake Shields’ UFC debut.