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Sanchez ready for his return to cage

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San Antonio might host Trout fight

Just happy to be fighting? No, more than that. Way more.

After having fought just twice in 28 months, sidelined by injury and rehab from surgery, Diego Sanchez is certainly happy to be fighting Saturday night. But he’s also appreciative – grateful, he says, to still be part of the sport he loves.

Sanchez, Albuquerque’s first homegrown mixed-martial arts star, returns to the cage Saturday in Tokyo. He’ll face Japan’s Takanori Gomi on a UFC card to be televised on Fuel TV.

Saturday
MMA: Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann, Diego Sanchez vs. Takanori Gomi, several other fights, from Tokyo. TV: Fuel, 8 p.m.

His recent lack of activity, coupled with the inexorable passing of time – he’s 31 and has been fighting professionally for 10 1/2 years – has given Sanchez greater appreciation for his chosen line of work.

“Sometimes when it rains it pours,” he said this week by phone from Tokyo, “and I was dealt a couple of hard years where I didn’t get to fight as much as I wanted to. In the end all it did was make me a better fighter, because now I appreciate it. Now I have gratitude.

“Now I know that I only have so much time left in the sport. I’m gonna enjoy it, and I’m gonna be very grateful for it.”

For the second time in his career, Sanchez is dropping from 170 pounds to the 155-pound lightweight limit. Monday, when he arrived in Tokyo, before the fight, he weighed 176.

The prospect of dropping 21 pounds by today’s weigh-in, he said, does not faze him. All those pounds and perhaps a few more, will come back on by fight time.

That’s how the game is played, and that’s a major reason why he’s dropping to lightweight.

“You look at the guys that are fighting at 170, and they’re getting in the cage at 190,” he said. “They’re such big guys.”

In Gomi, Sanchez (23-5) is a facing a fighter who belies the jiujitsu-specialist Japanese image. Only six of Gomi’s 34 victories have come by submission, 13 by knockout or TKO.

“He’s got a real hard right hand; he knocks out a lot of people,” Sanchez said. “(But) I know I’m a better fighter all the way around.

“I have a lot better conditioning, and my conditioning has always been one of the things I’ve used to get an advantage over my opponent – get them tired, push a hard pace and break them down.”

Getting to Tokyo wasn’t half the fun – Sanchez tweeted that airport security confiscated his almond butter and coconut oil – but he doesn’t expect jet lag to be a problem.

“When I got off that plane here in Japan, I was like a little kid,” he said.

“I have a lot of experience in my back pocket. I’ve done all the wrongs; now I’m starting to do all the rights and make my run for the lightweight championship in 2013.”

TROUT-ALVAREZ: It’s not quite a done deal – in boxing, is it ever? – but it appears Las Cruces’ Austin Trout will face Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a junior middleweight title-unification bout in San Antonio, likely at the Alamodome, April 20.

“It looks that way,” Las Cruces’ Louie Burke, Trout’s trainer, said, “but they’re not finished negotiating everything.”

Trout-Alvarez had been projected as going to Las Vegas, Nev., May 4 as a semi-main event on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero card. But Alvarez (40-0-1, 30 KOs) wanted a signed contract stating that he would fight Mayweather next if they both won their fights in May, and Mayweather balked.

Thus, according to multiple reports confirmed by Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Trout-Alvarez moves from May to April, from Vegas to San Antonio and from pay-per-view to premium cable (Showtime).

Burke said he was surprised by the switch.

“I thought Vegas was a done deal,” he said, noting that some Trout fans had already bought airline tickets and reserved hotel rooms on that basis.

San Antonio’s strong Hispanic population likely would make Trout the visiting team at the Alamodome.

That would be nothing new for Trout (26-0, 14 KOs), who won his WBA junior middleweight title by defeating Rigoberto Alvarez, Canelo’s older brother, in the latter’s hometown of Guadalajara.

“We’re used to it,” Burke said.
Sanchez ready for his return to cageSan Antonio might host Trout fightSaturdayMMA: Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann, Diego Sanchez vs. Takanori Gomi, several other fights, from Tokyo. TV: Fuel, 8 p.m.

COMBAT SPORTS
— This article appeared on page D6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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