MIAMI – Consider the predicament Diego Sanchez was in just a few months ago. He was hospitalized with a serious case of COVID-19 and spent almost a month there as things got worse. In his own words, he “seriously almost died.”

Now think about what Sanchez did Friday night. At 40, Sanchez (30-14) went the distance with 29-year-old Kevin Lee before losing a unanimous decision in the Eagle FC 46 headliner at FLXcast Arena.

Sure, it’s another defeat on the UFC Hall of Famer’s record. But all things considered, there was reason for Sanchez to feel proud afterward.

“I’m happy just to be out there,” Sanchez told reporters backstage. “Of course being a competitor, you always want to win, and you always want to go out there and finish the fight. Me and Kevin, we went out there and we war’d. I went out there, and I fought my best. I landed punches, I landed body kicks, I landed leg kicks, I landed strikes to the head. In the end, Kevin got me with some good wrestling. He’s a tremendous wrestler, and he got the top position, and he was able to establish it. He was able to hold me down, and my hat’s off to him.

“He’s a great fighter. He’s 29 years old. He’s in his prime. I went out there, and I gave the most entertaining performance I could for Eagle FC, for my fans all over the world.”

The fight was Sanchez’s first since September 27, 2020 when he lost to Jake Matthews at UFC 253. So much has happened since then, including Sanchez’s unceremonious release from the UFC after drama created by his former coach and manager, Joshua Fabia, with whom he severed ties in the middle of last year.

Kevin Lee says he ‘blew out’ ACL vs. Diego Sanchez, proud he ‘overcame that adversity’ at Eagle FC 46

When you add Sanchez’s hospitalization and near-death experience to those other major life experiences, he admits there was a lot weighing on him leading up to Eagle FC 46.

“A lot of different emotions came up throughout fight week, throughout the weight cut,” Sanchez said. “It wasn’t a normal weight cut for me, either. I seriously almost died in November-December, had the double pneumonia, the blood clots in the legs, and I barely was released from the hospital late December. It wasn’t easy to get back in shape. It was a lot more difficult this time around.”

Even so, Sanchez said he knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fight Lee after watching the attention Lee’s signing to Eagle FC received. Sanchez said he had opportunities to win, but he credited Lee for having “an iron will, too” and described him as being “physically powerful” in the cage.

Sanchez has two more fights on his Eagle FC contract, so don’t expect him to ride off into the sunset just yet.

“This isn’t the best Diego Sanchez ever,” he said. “I sucked it up and got it done. I got in the best shape I could in five weeks, coming out of retirement, coming out of the hospital. When I come back for my second Eagle FC fight – because I have two more fights on my contract – you’re gonna see the real Diego Sanchez. You’re gonna see me in my top physical prime condition, and I’m gonna do anything and everything to get there, and I’m gonna come to be victorious.”

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