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UFC star makes dream come true for young man with Down syndrome

Diego Sanchez arranged for Isaac Marquez to take him on in an exhibition bout in Albuquerque.

PA-8134892 Diego Sanchez weighing in for his lightweight title bout against BJ Penn in 2009. Source: Neil Davidson/The Canadian Press/PA Images

HIS NICKNAME MIGHT be ‘The Nightmare’, but Diego Sanchez was busy making a dream come true last weekend in his native Albuquerque for a fan who became a friend.

Isaac Marquez, a young man who was born with Down syndrome, dreamt of competing in a mixed martial arts bout ever since he first encountered some of his heroes at the famed Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in New Mexico.

Renowned for his fiery temper, Sanchez showed his softer side by helping Marquez with his training and then taking him on in an exhibition bout at a Jackson Wink Fight Night on Friday, which Marquez dedicated to his late mother who passed away from dementia.

“Most Down syndrome adults don’t live past 45,” Sanchez said ahead of the bout. “Isaac is 32, and I just wanted to see this young man be healthy. Exercise and martial arts are one of the most healthy things you can do.”

He never became a UFC champion, but Sanchez (27-11) will certainly go down as a legend of the sport. He made his professional debut in MMA over 15 years ago, won the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter and challenged BJ Penn for the lightweight title in 2009. The 35-year-old has won seven ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses in 27 UFC outings.

But his experience counted for little when he came up against MMA debutant Marquez, who showed impressive technique off his back to submit Sanchez via first-round armbar.

Sanchez said afterwards: “I just wanted everyone to know that Isaac had a dream and he went after it, and he earned it, and he got it. So anybody out there, if you have a dream, believe in yourself and go for it.”

Your my hero @isaacmarquezabq great fight!

A post shared by Diego Sanchez (@diegonightmaresanchezufc) on

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Paul Dollery

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