Diego Sanchez celebrates (UFC/Getty Images)

As MMA has rapidly grown as a sport, the knowledge and skill necessary to be successful have dramatically increased.

For the most part, gone are the days of ‘human cockfighting’ and kickboxers vs. wrestlers. Instead, fights are far less black and white, and the skills required to compete at the highest level go beyond just being a good striker, or wrestler, or jiu-jitsu practitioner; the martial arts are far more mixed nowadays.

As the sport has transformed, so too have the tools available to athletes, coaches, and gyms. Fighters are no longer confined to their local boxing gym or grappling school, and instead are able to call upon performance analysts, nutritionists and psychologists at any point during their pre-fight camp.

One man who apparently didn’t get the memo is 15-year UFC veteran Diego Sanchez.

This past weekend at UFC Rio Rancho, Sanchez, for the second time in his UFC career, elected to have just one coach in his corner, rather than the three coaches allowed. That coach was ‘School of Self-Awareness’ founder, Joshua Fabia, and his association with the TUF Season 1 winner should concern fans of the sport.

Who is Joshua Fabia?

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Fabia is the founder of the ‘School of Self-Awareness,’ an organization that states its main objective is to help “people who want to be of service to the world, which comes from first having empathy, compassion, and love for oneself,” and does so by utilizing “ancient wisdom with modern innovations.”

Fabia’s biography on the School of Self-Awareness website is particularly striking. Fabia claims that when he was just nine-years-old, his grandfather suffered a stroke and after observing the Western approach to physical therapy, “Joshua fell into the role of a physical therapist for his grandfather and worked with him to a remarkable 85% full recovery.”

Fabia also details his own experience in martial arts, claiming extensive specialized experience in “defense, protection, human rights, and physical therapy,” and certifications “martial arts, personal training, several military fields, stretch training, breathing and more,” but offers no evidence to support these.

A post on the ‘Warrior Talk’ forum in 2009 provided some more insight into this, stating “Josh has a background as an Army Ranger and is a Systema Instructor in Training … Everything I have done thus far has been geared to surviving under adverse conditions. We’ve been training indoors, outdoors, in cars, on pavement, cramped spaces, armed/unarmed, slow work, intense resisting work–the whole gamut.”

The School of Self-Awareness, where Fabia primarily works, offer classes ranging from “Breathing and Movement” to “Healing” and, of particular interest, the “SOS Survival Method,” which clearly employs Fabia’s apparent background in Systema, perhaps one of the worst backgrounds possible when coaching MMA.

Fabia’s relationship with Diego Sanchez

Fabia and Sanchez first joined forces after the latter severed ties with his long-time camp Jackson-Wink MMA. Fabia then assumed the position of Sanchez’s lone cornerman in “The Nightmare’s” bout against Michael Chiesa at UFC 239.

In a totally lopsided unanimous decision, Sanchez landed just seven significant strikes throughout the course of the 15-minute contest and was essentially taken down and controlled by Chiesa at will. Between rounds, Fabia looked to inspire his fighter with technical advice like “I need that Tyson, I need those strikes,” which clearly proved useless.

In Sanchez’s most recent contest he was once again dominated, this time by fellow meme-level fighter Michel “Demolidor” Pereira. Of particular note was Sanchez’s bizarre efforts to simply sprint at Pereira without throwing any strikes, a technique he has picked-up since training under Fabia. In the final round of the contest, Pereira landed a grounded knee to the head of Sanchez, forcing referee Jason Herzog to step in. After Sanchez claimed he couldn’t continue, “The Nightmare” was awarded the win via disqualification.

Once again, Fabia’s advice between rounds was interesting in comparison to some of the UFC’s elite coaches, as he implored Sanchez to “V-drill, v-drill. Think of the shadow and if it gets tight, get sticky and take it to the ground. Get on top and give me some ride time.”

Outside of Fabia’s coaching advice, another area that should concern fans of Sanchez is on social media. Over the past few months, Sanchez’s Instagram has essentially become a promotional page for Fabia and the School of Self-Awareness, with Sanchez either totally ignoring or attacking any critics of Fabia.

Fabia himself has also taken to vocally attacking his critics, most recently promising to expose Joe Rogan, as well as going after UFC Rio Rancho commentator Daniel Cormier and Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie.

The case of Diego Sanchez is yet another stark reminder that getting punched in the head is a dangerous way to make a living, and while Sanchez was never exactly ordinary (his walkout against Joe Stevenson and appearance on the first season of TUF are testament to this), this latest chapter seems particularly concerning when it comes to his health.

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