Monday, June 22, 2009 | midnight
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Brett Okamoto and Andy Samuelson break down recent boxing/MMA news. This week: Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, UFC 99 and The Ultimate Fighter No. 9.
Out of all the reporters and family members who waited patiently for Clay Guida to emerge from his locker room Saturday night after getting stitched up over his right eye, there was one person among the crowd who needed to see him most.
The guy responsible for the stitches -- Diego Sanchez.
"I just want you to know that I have the utmost respect for you," said Sanchez, whose voice shook with emotion. "We are blood brothers now. Thank you."
No matter where the explosive Sanchez's career goes from here on out, chances are he will never forget the battle Guida gave him at the Pearl at the Palms on Saturday.
The three-round fight went from what appeared to be headed for a sure knockout in the first 30 seconds to an all-out, split-decision brawl the judges awarded to Sanchez.
Known as one of the most intense fighters in the UFC, Sanchez's demeanor prior to this fight proved it. "The Nightmare" seemed nightmare-ish throughout the week.
But as he addressed a small crowd at the post-fight press conference, it was clear he had been humbled by Guida's courage.
"That guy's got a couple hearts in there," Sanchez said. "I hit him with some knees, kicks and uppercuts that were right on the button and he kept coming. I wasn't prepared for him to survive the onslaught I put on him in the first round."
If the UFC does come through with a title shot offer for Sanchez -- an honor he says he both deserves and expects -- it's hard to ask for a better fight to prepare him for it.
Even the simple challenge of making weight is still a science to Sanchez, who has fought just two fights in the lightweight division. In anticipation for what he knew would be a fight that would test his ground game, Sanchez strategically bulked up a little bit prior to the fight.
He was 6 pounds heavy the morning of the weigh-in and said he had trouble losing the final two. It took a treadmill workout and an intense session in the sauna to get down to the 156 pounds he tipped in at on Friday.
"This fight gave me more experience, it gave me the full three rounds in the cage and it gave me a little more experience dealing with the weight cut," Sanchez said. "Now I know if put that hard of a pace on my training and add more muscle, I have a mindset of what I can expect."
Sanchez is planning to travel to Philadelphia for the lightweight title fight between champion B.J. Penn and top contender Kenny Florian on Aug. 8.
Prior to his fight with Guida, Sanchez said it would be "common sense" that he would get the next title shot because he already defeated Florian in 2005 and would be a legitimate threat to defeat Penn.
If given a choice between the two, Sanchez said he would rather fight Penn, a fighter he says he has a close relationship with.
"I'm hoping B.J. wins. If he wins I'll get to fight a guy that's been a UFC legend," Sanchez said. "I will be in Philadelphia in person, right there at ringside watching every second of the fight. Me and B.J. are homies. I think we have very similar personalities.
"Fighting a rematch with Kenny Florian would be cool but I'd rather fight a legend than a guy I already beat."
As for Guida, the road from here may not be clear but he has certainly proven a worthy opponent for the top fighters in the lightweight division.
At the very least he can be counted on to not give up.
"One word man: heart," said Guida, when asked how he managed to keep going Saturday. "My family came here, when those guys are cheering me on I'll never stop."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or email@example.com.