Al Iaquinta will be returning to action after an extended absence to battle TUF champion Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 108.
Despite a desire to make a successful return to the Octagon, the fighter does have respect for his opponent.
“I respect the guy,” Iaquinta said to MMA Junkie Radio. “I met him, I hung out with him, he’s fun to hang out with, he’s cool. And I looked up to him when I was coming into the sport, he was the first ‘Ultimate Fighter’ winner, he was one of the first guys. He was the crazy guy out there, just always having crazy fights, he was one of the first guys like that. It was him and Forrest Griffin, so, it’s one of those fights where you’re like, you look up to someone for so long, and now you’re fighting against them.’ It’s pretty cool.”
Iaquinta hasn’t competed since 2015, where he defeated Jorge Masvidal by split decision at UFC Fight Night 63.
Even though he has been gone for a while now, the New York native feels that he’s in his prime as a fighter.
“Now I’m really in my prime,” Iaquinta said. “I feel I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. I feel I’ve gotten better, I’ve gotten faster. My body healed up. I feel good. My body feels good. Before, I was fighting very frequently, and you never really feel great. And I think Diego Sanchez has been fighting a lot, and that takes a toll on you. It catches up with you real quick. And I don’t see it being a good night for him. I’ve trained really hard. I’m going to be on guard, all the time, because he’s always dangerous. But I really feel comfortable going into this fight.”
UFC Fight Night 108 takes place on Saturday, April 22 from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee with Cub Swanson and Artem Lobov headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.