One might call it a Dream come true.
Back in MMA’s formative days, Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez was the face of the sport in Albuquerque. And the fiery Del Norte graduate – who changed his nickname to “The Dream” a few years back – remains immensely popular, not just in his hometown but worldwide.
Friday, the UFC announced that Sanchez has been added to its June 7 “Fight Night” card scheduled at Tingley Coliseum. Sanchez (24-7) is matched against Englishman Ross Pearson (15-6) in a lightweight (155-pound) fight.
This would be Sanchez’s first fight in Albuquerque since June 2004, when he defeated Ray Elbe by first-round submission (punches) on a King of the Cage card.
Sanchez joins Jackson-Winkeljohn teammate John Dodson on the June 7 show. Dodson (15-6), a flyweight (125), is down for a rematch with John Moraga (14-2), whom he defeated by decision in 2010.
The main event matches veteran lightweight Benson Henderson (20-3) against Dagestan native Rustam Khabilov (17-1), who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn.
Other fights earmarked for the card match welterweight Bobby Voelker (24-11) against Lance Benoist (6-2), and bantamweight Yaotzin Meza against Sergio Pettis (10-1)
Sanchez will be seeking to rebound from what he acknowledges was one of the weakest performances of his career – a loss by unanimous decision to unbeaten Myles Jury in Dallas on March 15.
Afterward, Sanchez attributed his poor performance against Jury to an illness caused by a steak tartare appetizer he’d eaten at dinner the previous night. On Twitter, Sanchez said he intended that revelation as an apology to his fans and not an excuse.
Albuquerque MMA fans likely can expect “The Dream” to defend his home turf on June 7 with his characteristic fight-of-the-night energy.
“Lesson learned I will be in top form!” he tweeted Friday.