It’s been just over two years since UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta was last inside the Octagon. Injuries and contract negotiations temporarily derailed what was one of the best runs in the division at the time. Now, with those things mostly in the rear view mirror, Iaquinta is ready once again to get back to MMA.
Iaquinta, in an interview with MMAWeekly video partner MMA Heat, addressed his return by saying, “It feels good. It’s like a feeling I haven’t felt in a while. It’s like déjà vu. I like it.
“This is what I love to. To be able to make it back after what I’ve been through is really a feat in itself. I’m happy that I’m here and that I’ll be getting back in there.”
While knee surgery was a big part of his time away, Iaquinta wasn’t shy about discussing his contract situation with the UFC and his perceived lack of proper compensation.
“I was going through a lot,” said Iaquinta. “The time wasn’t right for me to fight. I had a lot of things to take care of. The money wasn’t right. The money still isn’t great… it’s still the same… it is what it is. But hopefully that will change at some point.”
Iaquinta (12-3-1) will finally make his return in a 155-pound co-main event against veteran Diego Sanchez (27-9) at UFC Fight Night 108 on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., in a bout many believe could be a slugfest. Iaquinta doesn’t see it that way.
“Everyone thinks that, but I don’t think it’s going to be that kind of fight,” Iaquinta said. “I really don’t. I think technically I’m just on another level than him. I think I’m just too smart. I really trained to be smart this fight.
“He gets hit and he tries to lull you into that slugfest nonsense fight. He’s not a technical fighter. He can’t win a fight like that – and that’s the kind of fight I bring. I’m going to be cool, calm and collected, just like my other fights.”
While Iaquinta is confident heading into April 22, he is far from underestimating Sanchez.
“I’m not sleeping on him at all,” said Iaquinta. “If it sounds like I am, I’m definitely not. He’s dangerous from beginning to end.
“The guy is absolutely psychotic. He is so out of his mind that it benefits him. If he was a little more sane, I think it would hurt him, actually. But he’s so crazy… the belief in himself is definitely a scary thing. You can break guys, but you can’t break that guy, and that’s definitely a dangerous thing.”
When questioned about what would be next after Sanchez, Iaquinta again feels compensation could be an issue in determining future fights, but for now his focus is on his task at hand.
“I’m just worried about this fight, honestly,” Iaquinta said. “I’m not going to fight anybody in the Top 10 for the amount of money they’re paying me. We’ll think about it when it comes. I just got to worry about winning this fight and we’ll go from there. I’m really just having fun right now. I’m in a good place right now. So I’m just worried about right now.”