LAS VEGAS – Mixed martial arts welterweight fighter Michael Chiesa of Spokane Valley soundly defeated Diego Sanchez of Brazil at UFC 239 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday night and dedicated the victory to his friend, the late alpine climber Jess Roskelley of Spokane.
Chiesa had a 119-3 advantage in significant strikes landed – connecting on an impressive 95% – and had five takedowns to one for Sanchez, who Chiesa described as “tough as hell.” All three judges were unanimous in the win, scoring it 30-26 for Chiesa, a pro MMA fighter since 2008.
Chiesa, in green board shorts that matched his signature green tattoos, spoke one-on-one with The Spokesman-Review post-fight and after a group interview, elaborating on what he’ll do to celebrate his victory when he returns to Spokane Valley and dedicating the bout to Roskelley.
“I’m going to celebrate this win by just being with my teammates and the guys who helped me get where I’m at – I’m ready to go back home to Spokane. I miss my dogs. Me and my coach, Rick Little, we have spent so much time on the road,” Chiesa said. “We went to Texas for a week. We went to Chicago for a week. We came home for a week. We’ve been in Las Vegas for two weeks. We’ve stuck by each other’s side for the last 35 days on the road taking time away from our families to get the job done, and here we are talking to you guys.
“That’s what goes into this. To get one win in the UFC, it’s takes a lot more than just training in the gym. It takes a lot of camaraderie, it takes a lot of teamwork, it takes a lot of sacrifice, and we’re just very blessed to go home mission accomplished. We got the win. That’s what’s most important. Winning is everything in this sport.”
Chiesa’s final words were about his very close friend Roskelley.
“I was introduced to Jess Roskelley by my teammate, Sam Sicilia. Before we left for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ seven years ago was when I met Jess. We actually signed our contracts for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and faxed them from Jess’ house,” Chiesa said. “Because of Sam, I was able to bring Jess into my life. I drew a lot of inspiration from the guy.
“I told him all the time, ‘You’re the craziest dude I know. … You challenge the most ruthless entity in the entire world. You fight Mother Nature head on every time you go out there.’ He is one of my heroes. I am very blessed to have this moment to express my gratitude for having him in my life. This fight was for Jess, and this fight was for the entire Roskelley family.”
This was Chiesa’s second win fighting as a welterweight, and the crowd at T-Mobile Arena included Halle Berry, Dwight Howard and Wiz Khalifa. Other excerpts from Chiesa’s group interview in the media tent after his fight (before addressing reporters, he asked a journalist to take a photo of him onstage for social media, and the numerous F-bombs in his responses have been deleted):
When asked to compare UFC 239 to his loss last year in Las Vegas:
Last year was really tough for me losing to (Anthony) Pettis especially here in Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas, and I love fighting here. This place is feeling more and more like home. I’ll never leave Spokane, Washington, but I love fighting in Las Vegas. I love the fans. I love the environment.
A year ago today was the lowest point in my career. I can honestly say that day is long gone. … I remember sitting in the back here in T-Mobile. I remember the fight getting over and going back to the locker room. I was by myself. Everything was piling down on me. I train hard, and I take my career very seriously. I was wondering how this could all happen. It was a lot for me to overcome to get to where I’m at today talking to you guys.
I had to push myself to my absolute limit. I am very blessed and very thankful. You have to remember where you don’t want to be. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I keep it here in my heart because I will never let myself get back to that point again.
What was the last week like for Chiesa?
It felt really good. The last fight against Carlos Condit (Chiesa’s first as a welterweight) was very scary. Making changes is a very scary thing to do. I came off two losses for the first time in my career, then decided to make that jump up weight classes. I was very stressed out against Condit.
This fight week was cake. It felt good. This is how fighting should feel. I can’t believe that I spent so much of my career killing myself to make 155 (pounds). It took me two losses in a row to make that decision. I’ve made the change, and now I’m just enjoying this win and this moment. I didn’t think that I would fight past 33 or 34. Now I’m ready to fight in this weight class until I’m 38. I could do this for a long time.
Regarding his opponent Sanchez:
He’s tough as hell. I’m a 31-year-old guy in his prime, and I had to push myself to my limits to beat him. That says a lot. It was a lot of pressure on me. … I can’t lose to this guy. It would be career suicide. There was a lot of pressure on me, and it didn’t change the fact that he is tough as hell. … We have a certain respect for each other. I never doubted that I had his respect and he had mine. We had a hell of a fight.
Going back home to Spokane Valley for the rest of the summer:
I miss my dogs, dude. I’ve been gone so much. … I’m ready to sit with my dogs in my log house in the woods, bask in the sun, drink some beer and enjoy life a little bit before I get back in the gym.
His next opponent, and dedicating his fight to Roskelley:
I didn’t have an opponent in my mind. I was just thinking about my friend. We lost a very close friend, Jess Roskelley, he was an alpine climber. That was the only name in the back of my head tonight. This fight was for Jess and his family.
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