Once upon a time, Donald Cerrone and Diego Sanchez were stablemates at Jackson-Wink MMA.
Now that both men have left the Albuquerque, N.M.-based gym, they will square off in a welterweight bout at a UFC event on May 8. The fight is expected to be Sanchez’s farewell to the Las Vegas-based promotion.
It’s something of a curious booking for Cerrone, who previously expressed a desire to compete more consistently at 155 pounds at this point in his career. “Cowboy” explained the decision to accept a welterweight matchup with Sanchez on his YouTube channel.
“Everyone was booked up,” Cerrone said. “All the fights were booked. Yeah,  is what I wanted to do. Then Diego Sanchez I guess, went and showed up to the UFC and begged and pleaded with them to make me his retirement fight. So they called me and they asked me. I said, ‘Sure.’
“With this fight, yeah, it is at  but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get big. I’m gonna treat it like a  fight. I’m gonna try and walk in there at  or 168. Try and be on weight, fight at  and just be ready for moving my body down to 155. That’s the plan.”
Though they spent many years in the same facility, Cerrone and Sanchez weren’t necessarily close during their time at Jackson-Wink MMA. That was most evident when Cerrone departed the camp after the decision was made to corner newcomer Mike Perry instead of him in 2018. “Cowboy” ripped the gym on his way out, referring to it as a “puppy mill” and claiming that coach Mike Winkeljohn “drove that place into the ground.”
At the time, Sanchez took the side of Winkeljohn and the gym. Though “The Ultimate Fighter 1” winner is no longer with Jackson-Wink, Cerrone hasn’t forgotten how Sanchez responded.
“He says it’s two legends going at it,” Cerrone said. “I don’t think so. He talked a lot s—t when I left Jackson’s and now he did the same thing and left. It’s funny. I was just doing what I had to do. Built my own gym, trained my own people, starting making this mold which I think was the right move to do in my career and he had a lot to say about it. He said he wanted to fight me so here’s his chance. Be careful what you wish for. So yeah, this should be a fun highlight reel fight for me.”
Though Sanchez is far removed from his days as a lightweight title contender, he has managed to win three of his last five UFC appearances since 2018. Still, “The Nightmare” has become increasingly less competitive against high-level competition. Cerrone has fallen on hard times as well, but in going winless in his last five outings has faced generally more difficult opposition than his fellow New Mexico resident.
“I’m not overlooking the kid, by no means,” Cerrone said. “There’s areas where he could be dangerous and if I was fighting old Diego, 10 years ago, yeah, he was tough. Hard pace. I used to train with the guy, I know. . . He wants this to be his ride into the sunset, and I have no problem giving it to him.”