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Sanchez does right in second chance on Contender Series


Joby Sanchez punches JP Buys during Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series" align="center" />
The 23-year-old Joby Sanchez was on the fast track. Unbeaten in six pro MMA fights, he was coming off a knockout win over veteran Antonio Banuelos when the UFC came calling in 2014.

“When they called me, I talked to coach Greg (Jackson) and a couple of my other coaches and they said I should wait and get a little more experience. I took their advice into consideration, but…”

Sanchez starts laughing.

“I went anyway.”

Who could blame him? He had a perfect record, his talent was evident, and he had that confidence only youth can give you. And while he gave a good account of himself in a win over Tateki Matsuda and in losses to Wilson Reis and Geane Herrera, he was released a little over a year after being signed to the UFC. To his credit, he held no grudges.

“I went 1-2 and by no means was I surprised,” he said. “And I wasn’t hurt because it was all me. I should have performed a lot better.”

Then came the tough part, but since late 2015, Sanchez put his head down, went to work, got better, and put himself in position to get another shot in the UFC’s flyweight division.

“The past 19 months have been crazy,” he said. “Getting cut from the UFC and taking fights, trying to make my way back, battling with that pay cut and a lot of things. But this summer was fun. I had fun getting ready for these two fights. It was busy, but fun.”

“These two fights” were a pair of bouts on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Sanchez, now 26, appeared on the first episode on Jul. 11 and defeated Manny Vazquez via unanimous decision. He didn’t get the contract, but was brought back on Aug. 22 for a second shot against JP Buys. This time, he knew what needed to be done.

“I was so disappointed after the first fight because it was right there,” Sanchez said. “I learned quickly that winning is not enough. I had to do it phenomenally. So I said I’m gonna focus on the win and focus on the finish. If I can do those two things, then the contract will fall into place. If it doesn’t, I get another win and I get paid.”

He got another win, got paid, and also picked up a UFC deal after stopping Buys in the second round. This time, Sanchez is ready for the big show.

“I’ve found more confidence in myself, I’ve matured, I’ve had more mat time, and I really believe I’ve rounded myself out skill wise,” he said.

So were his coaches right with their advice the first time around?

“They weren’t wrong,” Sanchez laughs. “But I believe now I am ready. Going in now is the proper time, and, at this point, I feel like I’m not going to lose. Whether it would have been outside the UFC or inside the UFC, I’m going to keep winning.”