The idea of returning to Las Vegas for the first time and competing inside the Octagon since his most crushing loss hasn’t left Al Iaquinta’s mind.
Iaquinta, a former Ultimate Fighter runner-up, will meet Mitch Clarke this Saturday night on the prelim card for UFC 173.
Back in 2012, Iaquinta (8-2-1) faced Michael Chiesa in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 15. Just over two minutes into the opening round, the 27-year-old was caught in a rear-naked choke.
Since, he has strung together three straight wins, leaving the Serra-Longo fighter on the cusp of the UFC’s Top-15.
But that fateful June night remains fresh on his thoughts.
“I don’t think it has left my mind since it happened,” said Iaquinta, during a recent interview with FightLine. “That was a fight I had all the tools to win. I made one mistake and lost the fight.
“I saw everything that I lost out on because I didn’t win that fight and if I have the opportunity to do it again, I will win.”
After spending time on the sidelines recovering from an injury after the Chiesa loss, Iaquinta returned in 2013 and scored a decision over Ryan Couture for his initial UFC victory. He followed that up with a win a few months later over Piotr Hallmann.
Iaquinta kicked off 2014 with a third straight decision, topping Kevin Lee in his own backyard at UFC 169 in February.
The quick turnaround is something that Iaquinta believes will favor him, as he was able to stay right in training.
“My preparation is pretty much always very similar,” he said. “I train hard six days a week and I work on improving myself every training session.
“The training leading up to (the Kevin Lee bout), along with the actual fight, left me a little banged up, but I took very good care in training very hard but also very smart.”
Originally, Iaquinta was to be joined by teammate Chris Weidman on the Memorial Day weekend card, but the UFC middleweight champion bowed out after opting for knee surgery.
“Nothing changed,” said Iaquinta, in regards to Weidman having the operation. “I was looking forward to fighting on the same card as one of my teammates, but unfortunately that won’t be happening this time. Maybe it will happen in the future.”
Speaking of the future, Iaquinta is making sure to position himself outside of the Octagon. He’s been featured in television commercials alongside Weidman and has embarked on other endeavors – all of which he feels actually help him with fighting, too.
“I think it is good for me to get away from the gym every now and then,” he said. “It gives me a chance to clear my head and work on something other than martial arts. I have seen that in doing this, I come back to the gym re-focused and with a fresh mind.”
We’ll have more from Iaquinta later this week on FightLine, including his thoughts on Clarke as an opponent and how he sees the bout going down.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale