When fans think about the inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar immediately come to mind as a result of their instant classic. Therefore, its only suiting that the first ever Ultimate Fighter be the last to leave the UFC. No, I’m not talking about Forrest Griffin. The fight between Bonnar and Griffin during the TUF’s Season 1 Finale single-handedly helped bring the UFC into the mainstream. Dana White later called it Zuffa’s “Trojan Horse”. However, in doing so, it overshadowed the fact that Diego Sanchez was in fact the first ever Ultimate Fighter winner, having defeated Kenny Florian to take home the middleweight TUF crown earlier in the evening. With all of the former cast members on the show either retired or no longer employed by the UFC, the only exception remains to be Sanchez. The first to be crowned remains to be the last to grace the Octagon. When the contestants were first announced for “The Ultimate Fighter 1,” Sanchez was the fighter with the most hype surrounding him. As the undefeated King of the Cage champion, he backed up that hype in the Octagon winning all four of his fights, with three first-round stoppages including a submission over Florian in the Finale. Even the true main event of that card has been completely overshadowed as Rich Franklin scored the biggest win of his career at the time over Ken Shamrock. For the average fight fan Sanchez dominance of the show is easily forgotten as TUF 1 seems like it was forever ago. A lot can happen over a decade, and Sanchez’s lengthy résumé proves it. He’s won a bunch of fights and lost some, hopped divisions, got popped for marijuana, earned six “Fight of the Night” bonuses and two “Fight of the Year” (2006 Karo Parisyan, 2009 Clay Guida) honours, lost a lightweight title tilt to then-champ BJ Penn, changed his nickname from the “Nightmare” to the “Dream” and back to the “Nightmare” again and let’s not forget about him inventing the Yes! cartwheel, just to name a few. Overall going to war inside the Octagon on 21 separate occasions amassing as 14-7 record. Based on his age and durability it was almost expected that Sanchez will be the last fighter we see inside the Octagon and rightfully so. Much has been said about the entire cast of the show to the extent that Dana White said he was essentially looking to induct the entire TUF 1 cast into the UFC Hall of fame. It’s been a well documented success story deserving of fairy tale type ending. However, what remains to be seen by the die hard MMA fans is… Will Diego Sanchez go out with a swan song of epic proportions in hopes of building upon The Ultimate Fighter Seasons 1 already cemented legacy? Diego Sanchez would tell you YES! YES! YES! Looking at Sanchez’s recent time as a fighter, it’s more unlikely that anything of significance will come out of the remaining time of his once famed career. The likely scenario and eventual end game is identical to that of the majority of all other TUF 1 cast members. The consensus is that many of the TUF 1 cast members went out with a whimper facing the same troubling realities that Sanchez now faces on a daily basis: injuries and age. The majority of the contestants essentially were forced into retirement. As fans of the UFC, let’s hope Diego Sanchez can break this trend and go out with a bang as it’s likely he won’t go out anywhere near the top. Finishing on a winning note is the best case scenario for “The Nightmare” at this point in his career. Taking a snapshot of Sanchez’s professional career, it’s likely he will leave the UFC kicking and screaming like many others before him. What remains to be told is the how and when. One can’t deny it. The writing is on the wall without any real hope of championship aspirations in the near future. Sit back and enjoy the last of the TUF 1 showcase. However, based on Diego’s Sanchez most recent turns of a events in his career prepare yourself for a sad ending. The dropping down in weight classes and layoff due to rehabbing injuries it’s creating a recipe for disaster. Essentially it won’t be a dream come true for the nightmare. Quoting Connor McGregor in 2013: “The guy is a has-been.” Sanchez is expected to face Ricardo Lamas in a featherweight bout on November 21, 2015 at The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2 Finale. This will be Sanchez debut at featherweight despite the fact he was the middleweight TUF 1 champion. Sanchez is hoping to take a run at championship glory despite facing the longest layoff of his professional MMA career (1 year 4 Months) and at 33 years old. The layoff is a result of a broken collarbone suffered in training. Many pundits credit the announcement that he’s dropping a weight class as a way to get an eventually fight against Connor McGregor. However, many MMA handicappers see this as sign of weakness as an attempt by Sanchez to stay relevant. Even though many MMA mainstream fans fail to crown Diego Sanchez as the original Ultimate Fighter, he has out lasted them all. Being the youngest of the TUF 1 fighters it continues to work in his advantage but he’s fighting the age old question of time. Regardless of how durable Sanchez might be, it remains to be seen if he can pass that final test. As his admirable career rolls on, it’s evident Sanchez is no longer immune from the injury bug. Still, there has to be something said for being the last of a dying breed. That feat alone is worthy of all our respect because it has left us with no doubt that he will always remain to be the toughest of the TUF. The first Ultimate Fighter to be crowned inside the Octagon and the last to leave.
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