Diego Sanchez was born in 1981, in Albuquerque New Mexico. He began wrestling in high school. Eventually, he joined Jackson’s Submission Fighting in his hometown, under former trainer Greg Jackson. While training there, he earned his black belt in Jackson’s “Gaidjutsu”, a submission wrestling style. Sanchez also has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Sanchez started his MMA career in June 21st, 2002, where he won his first victory over Michael Johnson with a rear naked choke, at Ring of Fire 5. After that, he continued with 11 straight victories, many of which came under the King of the Cage banner, an organization in which he he won the championship belt with.
He participated on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter as a middleweight. During the show he defeated Alex Karalexis, Josh Rafferty, Josh Koscheck, and lastly Kenny Florian in on the TUF 1 finale show, where he took home the TUF 1 middleweight crown.
Diego won his first 17 fights, including 6 in the UFC. The first knockout of his career was against Joe Riggs in 2006 at UFC Fight Night 7, where he landed a right hook on Riggs that knocked him down, which he then followed with a running knee that knocked Riggs out. The fight ended at 1:45 in the first round.
His first lost was when he fought Josh Koscheck at UFC 69, for the second time. He lost the bout by unanimous decision. Later on that night, Dana White reported that Sanchez was sick the night before and almost had to retire when a test came back that indicated Diego has Hepatitis C. Even though the results were later proven wrong, the day after the fight, a large hole was found in his thigh. This was later found out to be a staph infection.
In his next fight after his loss with Koscheck, he had a second loss against Jon Fitch at UFC 76 in 2007, with a split decision. He won his next two fights, the first against David Bielkheden at UFC 82, which he won in the first round by submission due to strikes. He then fought and won against Luigi Fioravanti with a TKO due to strikes in the third round at TUF 7 finale. After pulling out of a bout with Thiago Alves, due to an injury, Sanchez announced he would be moving down to lightweight.
His first fight as a lightweight was against Joe Stevenson at UFC 95 in early 2009. Sanchez won the bout by unanimous decision.
At the TUF 9 Finale: US vs. UK in June, Sanchez beat Clay Guida with a spilt decision victory and won Fight of the Night honors, his second one in a row.
Sanchez is next scheduled to fight BJ Penn for the UFC Lightweight Championship on December 12th, at UFC 107.