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El Dirte Diary - TUF Finals

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Days before the most meaningful fight of his career Andrew Sanchez is easy like Sunday morning.

Upbeat and assured, Sanchez will face a yet-to-be-determined (at least to viewers) opponent in the finals of the The Ultimate Fighter Finale airing Friday on Fox Sports 1.

Though many didn't see the bout the night it happened, due to the 2016 Copa America Centenario championship running two hours past its time limit, Sanchez made it to the finals with quick and devastating performance over Eric Spicely on June 22.

The fight with Spicely was supposed to be grappler vs grappler, but Sanchez flipped the script from the jump. 'El Dirte' landed big punches early, including an overhand right that he followed up with a head kick. Sanchez saw that Spicely was in trouble and swarmed, landing a bevy of strikes as Spicely folded up and the referee stepped in to stop the fight, making Sanchez (the first overall male picked for the season) the winner and the first finalist for season 23. The usually-stoic Sanchez was visibly upset after the win over Spicely, whom he considered a friend.

We caught up with Sanchez after he landed in Las Vegas for the biggest fight week in UFC history with three fight cards spread over a three-day period, all of it culminating in UFC 200 on Saturday night.

Knuckle Junkies: Your win over Spicely seemed bittersweet on television. You were full of emotion after the win.

Andrew Sanchez: "Yeah, I was being a little bitch (laughing). Eric was the nicest guy in the house. I liked him a lot. I think it would have been different if he would have at least hit me but the first punch I threw pretty much finished him. In a real, back-and-forth fight you go on auto pilot but for that one I was just there. (Spicely) was a mess leading up to the fight. Telling Amanda (Cooper, the first female featherweight finalist from TUF: 23) that he was going to lose. I felt bad about the whole situation."

KJ: It didn't show in your performance

AS: "I went out there and destroyed him. Physically, I felt great. I didn't think I'd catch him so early. My plan was if he came forward, I'd take him down. If we wanted to strike, I'd strike with him. I showed that I could do it all."

KJ: How would you describe your time in the TUF House?

AS: "I could see how some would have a hard time in the house if you had a family or whatever. But it was a different circumstance for me. I did everything I was supposed to do. I knew I was the dominant fighter. I knew I should win the whole thing. I stayed low key and made friends with everybody."

KJ: How do you think you came across on camera?

AS: "I didn't look like a douchebag, so that's a plus. The whole experience made me grow as a fighter. I am much more confident. I destroyed everyone in practice and I knew I could beat anybody. I was lucky. I didn't have much stress. A the same time it's still difficult to stay really focused."

KJ: Your whole career up to this point has been spent at middleweight. Are you now going to stay at light heavyweight?

AS: "I'll fight middleweight but I won't be opposed to light heavyweight. I'm good with the big boys. They're slow and they get tired. As long as the fight is right, I'd fight heavyweight. My wrestling, cardio, and movement matches up well with the big guys."

KJ: You know who you're fighting on Friday but we have to wait until Wednesday night. What do you like about Friday's championship match-up?

AS: "I'm a much better grappler by about 1,000-percent. I'm the favorite for sure. All of the cards are in my favor. It's my fight to win. As long as I don't f*ck up, I'll win it."

KJ: Had you watched The Ultimate Fighter much before?

AS: "I watched the season (TUF 19) I tried out for and didn't make it. That was Corey Anderson's season. He is a friend of mine and a training partner. I didn't watch it for any other reason than to know if I could beat those guys."

KJ: Have you gotten much fan attention since the show starting airing?

AS: "It's not that different. I don't get out that much so other than other fighters and people coming through the gym, nobody notices me in New Jersey (where Sanchez trains at K-Dojo). Since I've been in Vegas this week, there have been more people stopping and asking for pictures and whatever. I feel exactly the same just with a few more Facebook friends and on Twitter I went from 8-900 followers to 1,300 but I don't really spend much time on (Twitter)."

KJ: Let's switch gears a little bit. I saw your new custom guitar on Facebook. How did that come about?

AS: "Jack (Spurlock) at Krashburn guitars has been following me since my RFA fight with Miles Marshall. He reached out and said, 'you're going to be champ one day. You're the next Chris Wideman.' We never really talked, except through Facebook. We were talking guitars and he gave me some options for one. It's the nicest thing I have played in my life. It's pretty sweet."

KJ: With a win on Friday will you have accomplished everything you set out to do by getting on the show?

AS: "I dominated everybody. I went in and took their souls. I knew I could. I knew I was good enough. Ever since last year I knew I could beat people anywhere. Nothing's changed. I'm just as focused. I didn't do it for the fame. I did it to win and to get into the UFC."

Graphic courtesy of Chris Oth, 55 Creative