He may be called “The Nightmare”, but Diego Sanchez just made one fighter’s dream come true…
To most who have followed his career over the years, Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez is probably known best for A) being in some of the most entertaining, blood-soaked wars the UFC has ever seen and B) being absolutely, unabashedly, coo-coo bananas crazy. Between his infamous “YES!” cartwheel and that time he tried to exorcise a demon from Jake Ellenberger prior to their fight at UFC on FUEL, TUF 1 veteran has earned a reputation as one of the more demented characters in the sport.
But so they say, underneath every badass’ exterior lies a hero with a heart of gold (or something like that), and Sanchez is no different. Last week, we brought you the heartwarming story of Sanchez’s ever-developing relationship with Isaac “The Sherminator” Marquez, a 32-year-old MMA superfan with Down Syndrome who dreamed of one day stepping into the Octagon to compete. After taking him on a tour of the Jackson-Wink gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico earlier this year, Sanchez began training Marquez for an exhibition MMA bout.
Over the weekend, Marquez finally got to see his dream come to fruition, as he took on none other than Sanchez in the main event of JacksonWink Fight Night 2 in the Isleta Resort and Casino.
The Nightmare vs. The Shermanator
Fighting in front of a sold out, raucous crowd, Sanchez and Marquez traded leather in a back-and-forth battle that “The Shermanator” dedicated to his mother, who died of dementia. Said Sanchez of the opportunity to share the gift of MMA with a fan:
“Most down syndrome adults don’t live past 45,” Sanchez said. ”Isaac is 32, and I just wanted to see this young man be healthy. Exercise and martial arts are one of the most healthy things you can do.”
Though Sanchez did not bring the kind of intensity we’ve seen in his classic battles against Clay Guida and Martin Kampmann to the fight, he still approached it with professionalism and class, which made for an even more thrilling moment when Marquez was able to submit him with an armbar just over a minute into the fight.
Check out a video of the finish below:
An Incredible Moment
As Sanchez was forced to submit, the crowd erupted in applause for Marquez in a moment that is sure to send chills down your spine.
As if the evening wasn’t inspiring enough, Sanchez then lifted Marquez onto his shoulders for a Rudy-esque celebratory walk around the cage, and something tells me he won’t be taking it quite as hard as he did his vicious KO loss to Matt Brown last month.
“I just wanted everyone to know that Isaac had a dream and he went after it, and he earned it, and he got it,” said Sanchez. “So anybody out there: If you have a dream, believe in yourself and go for it.”