Originally written on 5thRound.com  |  Last updated 2/15/12

The last time fans saw Diego Sanchez (Pictured) in action, he left the Octagon looking like this. Following an 11-month hiatus courtesy of a broken hand, the 30-year-old returns with a more mature perspective on the mixed martial arts fight game.

It’s no longer about intimidation, but preparation for the battle he’s set to embark on.

“I used to get involved in mind games, the fight before the fight, the mental and psychological aspects of the head games,” Sanchez admitted during this week’s media workouts. “When I was younger I used to think that was part of it. If you could beat a fighter before you even got into the ring then that was part of it. But now I’ve realized that once they lock the door it’s just two guys, two men.

“The decisions that they made in their training camp, the decisions that they made with their life, that’s all that matters and what’s in their hearts.”

It seems like eons ago when Sanchez burst onto the UFC scene by winning the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” During his seven years in the big leagues, he’s fought for the lightweight title, created the infamous ‘YES! Cartwheel,’ but more importantly, discovered an inner peace that’s allowed him to finally feel comfortable in his own skin.

Although “The Dream” has been riding the pine for nearly a year, and has posted only a 2-1 record since returning to the welterweight class, he believes a win tonight over Jake Ellenberger catapults him towards the top of the division’s totem pole. While the chat rooms aren’t currently buzzing about Sanchez, he understands a devastating finish can quickly change things.

“The fact that people aren’t talking about me for a title shot doesn’t bother me. It’s alright. Ellenberger has five wins in the UFC and some impressive ones. It all gets factored in. I have two ‘Fight of the Nights’ but, for me, to get that title shot I’m really going to have to earn it.

“So I’m going to have to go in there and beat the guy who everyone says is going to get the title shot. I have to go in and beat him and I have to beat him convincingly.”

Sanchez meets Ellenberger Wednesday inside CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. FUEL TV broadcasts the main card live beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT.

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