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Updated: Sanchez leaves J-W, Combate Americas card is off

Albuquerque’s Diego Sanchez, right, lands a punch against Ross Pearson during a UFC Fight Night in 2014. On Monday, Sanchez announced he has left Jackson-Wink MMA
Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal

Some 10 months ago, UFC welterweight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone bitterly parted ways with Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA.

Now, a bit less vociferously but citing some of the same concerns, longtime Jackson-Wink fighter Diego Sanchez has followed Cerrone’s lead.

Sanchez made his surprise announcement on Monday. His remarks came at a press event in Los Angeles staged to promote UFC 239, scheduled for July 6 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Sanchez (29-11) is scheduled to face Michael Chiesa (15-4) on the undercard of the show, headlined by Jackson-Wink teammates Jon Jones and Holly Holm.

Last August, Cerrone said, among other things, that the gym had gotten too crowded and that it was difficult to get enough individual attention leading up to a fight.

No one defended Jackson-Wink more zealously than Sanchez, among the gym’s cornerstone fighters.

“Don’t bad mouth my gym or my coach Mike Winkeljohn we’re good peeps striving to better out city our state and our sport!!!!” Sanchez posted on social media at the time.

And now?

“All I know is I wasn’t learning,” Sanchez said on Monday. “I wasn’t growing as a martial artist. … They (at J-W) were just basically going through the motions with Diego Sanchez.”

Sanchez made it clear he was talking about Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson, the gym’s founders and co-head coaches.

“… Come fight time, you’d get a couple mitt sessions with Winkeljohn, never really learning anything, just kind of tuning up what I already had,” Sanchez said.

“With Greg Jackson, it was maybe one or two (private sessions) a camp, but never any true love — the type of love that a trainer should have for a fighter.”

Sanchez said little-known fitness trainer Josh Fabia will prepare him for the Chiesa fight and work his corner that night.

On Tuesday, Winkeljohn declined comment.

“No comment, (just) journalists trying to get the ‘gotcha’ stuff,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Jackson said via text, “We love Diego to death and wish him all the best. He’s family and always will be.”

Sanchez has played a seminal role in Jackson-Wink’s history. It was his participation in the UFC’s original “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2005 that led to Jackson-Wink becoming one of the dominant gyms in the UFC ranks.

But this is not the first time the Albuquerque native has left Jackson-Wink. He lived and trained in San Diego for three years (2007-10) before returning.

NO COMBATE: A Combate Americas MMA card scheduled for Friday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho has been canceled, as first reported by

Slow ticket sales apparently were a factor in the decision, but dissatisfaction with the Star Center as a venue also may have played a role.

“We ran into a situation with the venue and the fight community,” Combate Americas CEO Campbell McLaren told Efforts by the Journal to reach McLaren for further comment were unsuccessful.

The Journal was unable to reach anyone at the Star Center for comment.

The Combate Americas main event was to match Roswell’s Andrés Quintana against Argentina’s (15-2) against Argentina’s Bruno Cannetti (7-5).

Ray Yee, who trains Quintana at Albuquerque’s Luttrell-Yee MMA, said the fight has been rescheduled for Aug. 31 in Lake Tahoe, Nev.