Diego Sanchez in a state of 'serene calm' entering UFC on ESPN+ 25 fight vs. Michel Pereira

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It has been almost six years since Diego Sanchez last fought in his home state.

On Saturday night, Sanchez (29-12 MMA, 18-12 UFC) returns to fight on New Mexico soil, when he takes on viral knockout artist Michel Pereira in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN+ 25.

“The fight might be in Rio Rancho, but it’s Albuquerque, New Mexico to me,” Sanchez told MMA Junkie on Thursday. “On this land, I’m undefeated. Since the age of 12 years old, I’ve been in the streets to the wrestling mats to winning state championships to winning the King of the Cage out there on that Santa Ana land. It’s been a great track record for me.

“You know when you come fight me in Albuquerque, you’re not only fighting Diego Sanchez. You’re fighting the desert. You’re fighting the high altitude of 5,000 feet. You’re fighting the dry air that gives you those chapped lips and dry throat. You’re fighting the elements.”

Hundreds of UFC fighters have come and gone since 2014, but “The Ultimate Fighter 1” winner is still kicking. At 38 years old, Sanchez has won two out of his most recent three outings. Despite his age, the MMA legend said he’s continued evolving.

“In 2014, I was in a different place than I am now,” Sanchez said. “I made a decision during the fight here in 2014. I chose to stay at my house. I said, this is an advantage. … But it was too comfortable. I lost that mission element where you’re a warrior and you’re on the travel. You’re going somewhere and you get that feeling of going into a different territory. I still pulled out a victory, but it was not the type of victory I wanted that night.

“Come Saturday night, my mind is right, my health is right, my training is extremely well-prepared.  I’m ready to give New Mexico – but not only New Mexico, ESPN and the rest of the world – the best performance they’ve ever seen me fight.”

A longtime member of Jackson Wink MMA, Sanchez left the world-renowned gym prior to his most recent outing in July. Now Sanchez is living the rogue life, doing things his way. This lifestyle, he thinks, does him well.

“Where I am right now, it’s just a very serene calm,” Sanchez said. “I feel just very aware – very, very, very aware of what’s going on in my life. I’m very aware of the opportunity that has been placed in my destiny.

“I go back three months ago, I didn’t know if I was going to even be fighting in the UFC any more. I was at the end of a 32-fight contract, the longest of all time’s history. (I’m) the man the with the most history in the UFC, the man that brought UFC to Albuquerque and opened the doors, took Greg Jackson to his first UFC fight.”

As for his upcoming fight with Pereira (23-10 MMA, 1-1 UFC), Sanchez said he’s ready. Sanchez said the combination of fighting in his hometown and feeling mentally sound should result in victory.

“(My) run started here in my hometown,” Sanchez said. “I could not be more happy. I could not be more ready. There’s a lot on the line, and come Saturday night, just know I’m going to put it all in the cage. I’m going to go. You’re going to see me fight. You’re going to see me fight. You’re going to see me not go to this guy, but go through this guy.”

Check out MMA Junkie’s full pre-fight interview with Sanchez in the video above.

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