Former Ultimate Fighter runner-up Al Iaquinta will return to action for the first time in almost a year when he steps inside the Octagon at UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen.
Iaquinta will be facing off with Joe Proctor on the April 27 card from Newark, New Jersey. The two were both on the same season of TUF.
Recently, FightLine.com caught up with the New Yorker has he continues to work his way back from knee surgery.
Since your knee surgery, how has rehab been going? Have things progressed like you thought they would?
“Training is going great right now! The rehab process has gone as expected. I listened to my doctors and rehabbed my knee the right way. In the beginning of January I spent a couple of weeks training at Team Alpha Male in Cali. After TUF Urijah Faber and his team welcomed me to Sacramento to do some training. I finally took them up on their offer and I got to enjoy some great weather and some great training.
“It also gave me confidence that my knee was ready for battle. For the past few weeks I’ve been back on Long Island training with Team Serra/Longo. I have been pushing myself everyday and improving every training session.”
Did you have to make any kind of adjustments in your training after returning from the surgery?
“When I first returned to the gym I was limited to just boxing, sparring and wrestling/grappling drilling. Since around the new year I have not been limited in my training at all and I am right back to where I was before the injury.”
Any concerns about “ring-rust” since you were forced to be on the sidelines for an extended period of time?
“I have had hand injuries earlier in my career that have kept me sidelined for over a year. With that experience I feel like I will be just fine hopping right back in there after this layoff. I have already had a few gym wars in sparring, I believe that a few more of them will knock out whatever ‘cage-rust’ may be there.”
Talk about securing a spot on the UFC 159 card since it takes place on the East Coast?
“I am very excited! Fighting at UFC 159 in New Jersey will be as close as I get to home. All my friends and family will be able to get down to the Prudential Center to watch me fight live! I am also excited to get back in the cage and get back on the winning track after this time off.”
What do you remember about Joe Proctor, your opponent, from your time together on The Ultimate Fighter? Did you seek the match up with him?
“I did not ask for Joe Proctor. Joe and I exchanged text messages when the UFC had offered that matchup. We agreed that we had a bunch of training sessions while on TUF that would have been ‘Fight of the Night’ type of fights and we will put on a show and get paid for it this time.
“Proctor is a very tough guy with powerful punches and a very good ground game. As good as he was on the show, I am sure that he has improved and evolved his game, as I have. So I will be preparing for everything going into this fight.”
Being an ex-TUF fighter, what are your thoughts on the current season of the show?
“I have really been enjoying this season of TUF so far. There seams to be a bunch of really good fighters on the show and that has resulted in some great fights so far. I am looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I have seen most of Uriah Hall’s fights at the Ring of Combat. So it is cool to watch him do good so far on this season of TUF as so many Ring of Combat alumni have done. That spinning back kick knockout was wild.”
Looking at the UFC’s lightweight division, is it the deepest in MMA right now?
“I think that its a toss up between 170 and 155 as the deepest divisions in MMA. There are so many great fighters and really are no easy fights in these weight classes.”
What are your thoughts on the upcoming UFC lightweight title match between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez?
“This is going to be an awesome fight. I am really excited for this one. I really have no idea how this fight will play out. Im really interested in seeing how Gilbert Melendez fights coming over to the UFC. Even though Melendez is a veteran of the sport, this will be his first fight in the UFC.
“Benson has already had a bunch of fights in the UFC and is definitely comfortable fighting there. I think it will be a great fight but Benson may get the W.”