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NORFOLK, Va. – It’s been an up-and-down run for Diego Sanchez for years now.

After the Season 1 “Ultimate Fighter” middleweight winner dropped back to lightweight from a four-fight run at welterweight, he’s gone 4-4 in the division. (He also had a one-fight stint at featherweight, which was a loss to Ricardo Lamas.)

But on Saturday, Sanchez (27-10 MMA, 16-10 UFC) returns to the welterweight division to take on Matt Brown (20-16 MMA, 13-10 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 120 co-main event, and the extra 15-pound savings has him rejuvenated and feeling like he can make a run at a title again.

UFC Fight Night 120 takes place Saturday at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. It airs on FS1, including Sanchez-Brown in the welterweight co-feature, following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“After my loss at UFC 200 … I had to lose to realize that I wasn’t fighting at my best,” Sanchez today told MMAjunkie after a workout in Norfolk, Va. “I wasn’t fighting at my healthiest. It was a hard thing to do. I took that first knockout loss by Al Iaquinta and it made me realize, ‘Ya know what, Diego? You’re 35 years old. You can’t recover from these weight cuts the way you used to when you were 25 years old.’

“I soul searched for months and I said, ‘Ya know what? For the remainder of my career, I’m going to enjoy it.’ Everybody knows I can’t fight forever. Everybody knows that from 35, you’re looking at the window closing on your career. And I know that.”

Sanchez looked around and saw the sport starting to change once USADA started more stringent drug testing. He saw fighters moving up a weight class and finding success, conceivably because they were getting the training benefit of not cutting the weight they once did.

And honestly, Sanchez said needing to make the cut to 155 just had him outright unhappy.

“I went down to 155 for the challenge,” Sanchez said. “I went down to 155 back in the day when (testosterone-replacement therapy) was allowed to be done. These guys didn’t even have a test for Human Growth Hormone. On top of that, they were using IVs to rehydrate.

“So once USADA came in the game, the sport started to adapt and evolve … things are changing. The game is changing. And you’re seeing that the real truth of it is, when fighters are natural, it’s not the size of the dog, it’s the fight in the dog.”

On Saturday, he believes he’ll have plenty of fight and is hoping for a return to the “Nightmare” of old, even though Brown is a 3-1 favorite against him.

For more from Sanchez, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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