Al Iaquinta waited patiently on the sidelines, preparing through training to make an impact once he finally returned to the Octagon.
After sitting out for over a year recovering from two knee injuries, Iaquinta made the most of his shot, dismantling Ryan Couture at UFC 164 over the weekend.
Now, the former Ultimate Fighter runner-up has secured his initial UFC victory – and he is hoping he only leads to more from here.
“I’ll be back in the gym right away,” said Iaquinta, in an exclusive interview with FightLine just days after his win. “I’ll get a few weeks of training in and I’ll be trying to get back in the cage as soon as possible.”
Iaquinta (6-2-1) readied himself for everything Couture had done in previous fights, saying “There wasn’t much Ryan threw at me that I hadn’t been prepared for in training.”
The New Yorker made sure to “live in the moment” just hours away from making the walk to the Octagon.
“The morning of the fight, I was thinking about how I had prepared my whole life for this,” he said. “I was in shape and feeling strong. I told myself the only think left to do was have fun and enjoy the fight.”
Over the course of 15 minutes, Iaquinta landed 80 significant strikes and was a perfect 4-for-4 on his takedowns. He also stuffed all six of Couture’s takedown attempts, earning 30-27 scores across the way.
“Getting my hand raised was the best feeling in the world,” Iaquinta said. “I had set a goal to win my first fight in the UFC and I had reached it.”
While not throwing out any names as far as a future opponent goes, the victory over Couture has allowed him to set a new benchmark to strive for.
“Now, I have to re-evaluate my goals going forward and I have a whole new set to work towards,” he said.
As for the post-fight celebration, with the card taking place in Milwaukee instead of Las Vegas as most do, the “party” had to be tamed pretty early.
“I ate dinner with my family and then had a few drinks at the bar with my friends,” Iaquinta said. “Everything in Milwaukee closes at 2 (a.m.) so the party got shut down pretty early.”