After stepping up to the UFC on short-notice, Craig White gets another opportunity to showcase the warrior spirit which brought him to the sports’ pinnacle.
In five weeks’ time, White will face off against future UFC Hall of Famer and menacing striker, Diego Sanchez at UFC 228, September 8 in Dallas, Texas. The fight was confirmed by the MMAJunkie on Thursday evening after being announced by the UFC.
The UFC 228 pay-per-view will be headlined by fellow Brit, Darren Till, who challenges welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
White (14-8), made his UFC debut on just 12-days’ notice when he stepped in for the injured Gunnar Nelson to fight Neil Magny at UFC Fight Night 130. It was a brave effort from the former Cage Warriors welterweight contender, but Magny utilised better control against the fence before stopping White with knees and punches at the end of round one.
‘OH MY GOD’ Craig White reacts to the news he’s fighting Diego Sanchez
Just over two months later, “The Thundercat” has his next marching orders with a PPV undercard fight against The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 winner, Diego Sanchez.
Asked whether he thought he’d receive such a golden opportunity after his debut loss, 28-year-old White replied, “definitely not!”
“I don’t think anyone would have expected this as my second opponent at all and I would have loved to see some of the reactions. My own was like ‘OMG OMG OMG’,” White told DreySports following the announcement. “He wasn’t even a consideration in my mind on when people were asking who I wanted next or thought would likely be next.”
So what sort of opponent was the LD Fighters gym leader anticipating?
“I was expecting another newly signed welterweight,” answered White, “someone not as well known or maybe someone off of the Contender Series as that’s how I thought it worked. But nope, I get offered Diego Sanchez. Someone who is without a doubt a true legend in the UFC and I am f***ing excited.”
Craig White vs. Diego Sanchez a guaranteed fight of the night
Albuquerque’s Sanchez, now 36-years-old, may be an identifiable athlete in the world of UFC, but “The Nightmare” has been falling deeper into his own Inception recently, managing just one win in four. Sanchez was knocked out by Al Iaquinta and Matt Brown in his last two Octagon appearances and with that White feels there’s definitely a platform to experiment with his own striking.
“Looking back on my past few fights, I feel that I tend to let myself down by not using it as much as I should and that’s going to change from now on,” he said. “With this fight, whether it stays on the feet or goes to the ground, I’m more than capable of being the more dominant fighter.”
White is no slouch for a finish, with four stoppages in four since returning to Cage Warriors in early 2017.
He believes that more prominent striking prowess comes down to his improved preparation, which he described as “even more specific, even more deliberate” and that suits his attributes completely.
With White’s blood quenching, hit for hit style mixed with Sanchez’s unguarded, propeller-like advances, fans should expect a hellacious affair when they meet in Dallas, especially since Sanchez is a seven-time ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus winner.
“Imagine the amount of cheesecake I can get with that!,” said White when asked about potentially winning the $50,000 Performance bonus. “Those who know me know I’m here to fight and won’t shy away from anyone so if I can put on a fight of the night for everyone then that’s my job complete.”
Has Craig White learnt from life altering weight-cut?
One of the biggest talking points in the aftermath of his loss to Magny in Liverpool was White’s stupidly dangerous weight-cut. The Brit shed 46-pounds to make the welterweight limit, a polarising statistic which saw him come under fire amidst the revelation.
That sort of weight-cut has the potential to take years off a fighter’s career; let alone life, depleting the body of water and nutrients which can cause consequential problems to primary organs. The severity of this matter seriously hit home following the MMA world’s reaction and as Craig White admits to DreySports, he’s taking this integral part of fight preparation incredibly serious.
“With no implementation of a weight cut at all, through the changes to my training, I’m two weeks ahead of where I would usually be,” White said. “Diet wise I’ve cleaned up my eating and avoided the daily cheesecake binge and my usual craving for sweets and chocolate seems to have vanished. I’m still having the occasional treat and that but my mentality seems to have shifted and the benefits of that are really helping.”
Coincidentally, the last time Sanchez fought a Brit was Ross Pearson at UFC Fight Night 42 in June, 2014. It was a highly contested split decision which went in favour of JacksonWink’s Sanchez, much to the chagrin of spectators.
There may not be a personal link between Pearson — who recently suffered his fifth defeat in six fights — and White, however “The Thundercat” is determined to reclaim some form of retribution for the UKMMA guard.
“I hadn’t really thought about it that way but obviously bringing the win back for the UK is the goal here so if there’s an element of retribution from that, then happy days,” he said. “That was a great fight that could easily have gone the other way and as the next Brit to take on the opponent, that’s a tough fight to follow. But I’m going in there to perform and win regardless.”