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Biggest Fight for Joby Sanchez Comes Months After Biggest Career Move

In his First Fight as a Member of Jackson’s MMA, Joby Sanchez Takes on WEC, UFC Vet Antonio Bañuelos August 7th

On Thursday night, undefeated Albuquerque flyweight Joby Sanchez will square off against 31-fight veteran Antonio Bañuelos, at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore, California, in the toughest test of his career.

A little over eight months ago Sanchez would make the most heart-wrenching decision of his young career.

Since the age of seven, Sanchez, had trained in the hybrid martial art of Kajukenbo under the tutelage of 9th degree black belt Grand Master Melcor Chavez at the Chavez Dojo in Albuquerque’s South Valley.

“The Dojo helped establish me as a person,” says Sanchez, now 23. “It taught me discipline, respect and a lot of work ethic.”

Joby Sanchez

Joby Sanchez spent nearly 15 years learning from Grandmaster Chavez. Photo: Will Fox/SWFight.com

Sanchez would win the 2012 Xtreme Fighting Championships Open Tryout beating out over 100 other hopefuls for a five-fight contract and eventually compile a five win and zero loss record as a member of the Chavez Dojo.

The family-owned gym is legendary in the streets of southwest Albuquerque and is credited for keeping kids on a straight path, something difficult to accomplish because of the vices and poverty that consumes the neighborhoods that surround it.

Despite the accolades in regional and national showcased events, the gym is not highly recognized for its professional fight program, having only a handful of current pros.

Because of a mostly youth and teenage-aged student base, sparing was a lacking luxury for Sanchez.

With other internationally recognized gyms in Albuquerque, Sanchez felt that if he wanted to fully succeed in MMA he owed it to himself to explore his options.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” says Sanchez of his departure from the Chavez Dojo. “I was there since I was a kid. I love the Chavez’s. I’ll never forget where I came from.”

His new home would become Albuquerque’s famed Jackson’s-Winkeljohn’s MMA; arguably one of the best mixed martial arts gyms in world.

“My first day was an eye-opener,” recalls Sanchez. “I got my ass kicked.”

“I got to see that I’m not the only hungry fighter,” he continues. “There’s a lot of us that are all chasing the same dream.”

The “lot” being not just fighters like UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, former interim UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit, but also talented fellow flyweights such as former UFC title challengers John Dodson and Ali Bagautinov, and Legacy FC veteran Nick Urso.

The move to his new training grounds was a transition facilitated by Jackson’s-Winkeljohn’s MMA striking coach Brandon Gibson.

Joby Sanchez, Alistair Overeem, Brandon Gibson

(L to R) Sanchez, former Dream and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem, and Brandon Gibson relax at the base of the Sandia Mountains.                                          Photo: Will Fox/@WillFox

“He got lit up,” chuckles Gibson, recounting Sanchez’s first training session. “That’s the Jackson’s MMA welcome. If they show up the next day it shows a lot about a fighter.”

Gibson, also an Aquatics Manager for Bernalillo County, hired Sanchez as a part-timer to work the county pools six years ago where the two would eventually build a friendship.

“First time I met him; I actually fought on a Chavez card with him when I was 20-years-old,” says the 32-year-old Gibson who will be cornering Sanchez on Thursday night. “When he was looking for a new gym earlier this year, we were a really good fit for him and I took him under my wing.”

“I train smarter instead of killing myself,” says Sanchez. “Before, I overworked and overtrained, now I’m able to get a different perspective from guys on what they do when it comes to striking and even weight-cutting.”

The experience and knowledge will be much needed for Sanchez, Thursday night against Bañuelos, a veteran of some of the top promotions in the world which include the now defunct WEC, Dream, Legacy FC, and UFC.

“I think this fight is what my career needs,” says Sanchez. “As you move up in your career you always take on tougher challenges and by the time you get to the UFC, they’re not gonna give you some dog, they’re gonna give you a top notch guy.”

Tachi Palace Fights 20 featuring Sanchez and Bañuelos can be seen live Thursday night at 7pm MT on Sherdog.com.

About Jorge Hernandez

Jorge Hernandez is chief editor for SWFight.com, TV-Host of Combat Sports Weekly and Co-Host of Low Blow Radio. He can be reached on Twitter @JorgeDeBurque.