Al Iaquinta: 'Diego Sanchez Is Going Down'

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Al Iaquinta

Much to the excitement of many in the MMA community, fan favorite lightweight Al Iaquinta has reconsidered his decision to hang up the gloves permanently and has chosen to end his yearlong retirement.

The New Yorker is wasting no time dipping his toes in the pool, as he is jumping right back into the deep end of the UFC lightweight division. He is set to face Diego Sanchez April 22 in the co-main event at UFC Fight Night 108 in Nashville.

In a scrap that has all the potential to become an instant classic, the always aggressive and entertaining Iaquinta is set to throw down with one of the greatest warriors to ever step foot in the Octagon in Sanchez. Iaquinta isn't quite as excited as everyone else about the battle. He doesn't see it playing out in such an exciting fashion. What he does envision is an easy fight to showcase his abilities and to make a case for a bigger, more high-profile fight in the future.

"I think it's a really good fight for me," Iaquinta said. "Everybody thinks it's going to be a crazy fight. I don't see that happening. I am too technically good for this guy.

"You can't get suckered into that Diego Sanchez, wild, nonsense fight. If I did get into that kind of fight, I am ready for it. I am better at that style of fighting than he is. The easy route to victory is being clean. I will be cleaner than him. I will pick my shots. I know when he will want to go crazy. There are no set-ups for anything he does. I have things I have to look out for, but I am going in there to try to look good. This is really a fight where I can go in there and look good and impress a lot of people."

A contractual disagreement and the feeling of not being appreciated and, in some cases, outright disrespected, led to Iaquinta making the harsh and possibly overly emotional decision to retire prematurely. After a few drinks and a conversation with UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard in Denver, the ice was broken and things were set in motion to have Iaquinta raging in the cage again. When word spread that he had a change of heart and was indeed considering a comeback, he was shown love from many in the community.

"I realized how many people do like to watch me fight," Iaquinta said. "You get shit on by asking for more money. You think, 'F*ck. Maybe I really do suck. Maybe Sage Northcutt is that much better than me.' Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard seem like really cool guys. They wanted me to be happy. A few drinks and the conversation with them got it all started.

"Now the real people come out. The people that appreciate real fighters. They appreciate guys that have worked hard their whole lives at this art. It's cool to see. I wish they catered more toward those fans and take care of the guys that f*cking fight. To hear people that appreciate it is a great thing."

Truth be told, Iaquinta is really tired of talking about the contract, the money and anything outside of the fight itself. Although he is still not overly happy with the situation, he just wants to get in there and fight. It all comes back to that warrior spirit and competitive fire that can't be extinguished.

"There was something missing," Iaquinta said. "There is nothing better than testing yourself and pushing yourself one-on-one versus somebody. The rush you get when all of those people are watching you is incredible. I have done that my whole life.

"I am in a good place right now. I feel like I have recovered from all the shit I had to deal with the last two years. I did it all myself. I thank my family and friends but not many others. That's basically it. I did this all myself. I am fighting for myself. It's on my terms."  

If the no nonsense New Yorker had it his way he would skip all the talk, all the lead up, even the weigh ins and fight today if he could. Gloves optional.

"Diego Sanchez is going down, plain and simple. Let's go."

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