UFC 171 FEATURED ONE FIGHT THAT LEFT ME SURPRISINGLY DEPRESSED. Sanchez vs Jury. A fight featuring a young, talented, and technically sound fighter successfully executing a well thought-out game plan against a lion hearted UFC legend. Watching Myles Jury slowly and methodically pick apart Diego Sanchez marked for me a significant changing of the guard in MMA. The last wave of UFC heroes slowly disappearing from the octagon and replaced by new, young, and hungry fighters.

Diego Sanchez is an icon in MMA. He is known as the first Ultimate Fighter from his success on the first season of the reality show. But he is better known for the ferocity and the heart that he puts into his fights.

Diego Sanchez started his MMA career as a high school wrestler. Skipping college, he started training MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Jackson’s Submission Fighting while working for UPS. His first pro fight in 2002 was with Ring of Fire. He moved to the King of The Cage (KOTC) promotion where he put together an impressive 7-0 record including becoming the 6th KOTC welterweight champion. In 2005, Diego Sanchez was recruited to the first season of The Ultimate Fighter and in the finale he defeated Kenny Florian in a middle weight match to be the very first Ultimate Fighter. This was the same Ultimate Fighter finale where Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar made history with their fight that saved the UFC.

Since then, Diego Sanchez has put together an impressive career in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions which include wins over Nick Diaz, Joe Riggs, Joe Stevenson, and Clay Guida. But that’s not why fight fans love Diego. His wins and his loses are not why Diego has found a home in our hearts. We love Diego Sanchez because he is the epitome of what we imagine a fighter to be. He is a living breathing action hero that faces his opponents with brutal force and always bloodshed. Every time he walks into that octagon, a big part of Diego Sanchez’s game plan includes biting down on his mouth piece and moving forward, taking five hits to deliver one.

Most of all, we love Diego Sanchez because in him we see someone that we all wish we could be – someone who has found their calling, someone who has found their place in this great big world. There are some people that have a countdown clock to retirement, waiting to start living. There are those who struggle but eventually find it. Then there are those who never ever find it. For those of us who continue to struggle, Diego Sanchez is a hero and a source of inspiration. Every time Diego walks into the cage, we close our eyes and take that deep breath with him. Every time Diego wins, we enjoy a small victory in ourselves. Every time Diego takes a Parkinson’s inducing punch, we grimace and fear for our skulls. But not Diego. He’s right where he wants to be.

It was at UFC 171 where Diego Sanchez and Myles Jury met under the Saturday night lights of the octagon. Almost every hardcore fight fan knew that Diego was going to lose and Myles Jury was going to come into the spotlight by defeating a big-name opponent. Myles Jury avoided entering a Diego Sanchez style brawl and won the fight with precise execution of a sound and carefully crafted game plan. The loss is a reminder to us that Diego Sanchez is part of a generation of fighters who’s injuries and age are catching up with them. Whether we see them retire completely or stay partially active, these are heroes that have given us a source of courage and inspiration. Role models that taught us to be noble and positive.

Fight fans, if you haven’t already, it’s time to face and welcome the new generation of MMA fighters that will continue to build the sport.  As a fight fan, I cannot wait for the match-ups we will see. I am pumped, I am excited, and I am ready to go. But sometimes it’s just hard to see your heroes lose.