Wantagh's Al Iaquinta keeping busy as he climbs up UFC lightweight ladder

Al Iaquinta of Wantagh spars with James Gabert

Al Iaquinta of Wantagh spars with James Gabert at Ray Longo MMA in Garden City. (Feb. 29, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

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Take a glimpse into the mindset of an MMA fighter.

"When I have a fight, I look towards that date as, like, 'That's the day I'm gonna die' or something," Wantagh's Al Iaquinta said, metaphorically. "That's it. There's nothing after that. I'm giving it everything I got on that night."

For Iaquinta, that night is Saturday, in Manchester, England, against Piotr Hallman at UFC Fight Night. Iaquinta's bout will stream live on foxsports.com as part of the prelims beginning at noon EDT. In the main event on Fox Sports 2, former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida debuts at middleweight against Mark Munoz.

Iaquinta last fought Aug. 31 and dominated Ryan Couture for a unanimous decision, his first bout in more than a year because of injuries. He emerged from that bout injury free, making this eight-week turnaround possible.

And that's the way the 26-year-old Iaquinta wants it as he tries to make his way up the ladder in the UFC's crowded lightweight division.

"For me, being active is a good thing," Iaquinta said. "Otherwise, I get sidetracked. I gotta have an immediate goal in the future. If I don't have a fight that I'm training for, or a tournament that I'm training for, I'll go out, I'll get drunk, do something stupid, and that's just not good for what I'm trying to accomplish here."

Iaquinta flew home the day after his last fight and was in the gym the next day helping several Serra-Longo teammates prepare for upcoming bouts. He was planning to compete in the Pan Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championship tournament in Manhattan at the end of September. He decided that last part on the plane ride home.

But then the phone rang.

Iaquinta was offered a fight against Anthony Njokuani, an established name in the UFC, after his opponent, Paul Taylor, pulled out with an injury and then retired from fighting. A week later, Njokuani injured himself in training and pulled out of the fight. Enter Hallman (14-1), a 26-year-old from Poland who last fought four days after Iaquinta did.

Those are just the machinations of how Iaquinta (6-2-1) came to be involved on this card, his second since reaching the finals of "The Ultimate Fighter" live season in June 2012. What matters at this point in Iaquinta's career path, though, is that he's ready whenever the next call comes, and to put himself in a situation to ensure that call does come.

"I've learned that I have to have something, even if it's a silly grappling tournament," Iaquinta said. "Even if it's a small one, I know that I'm gonna come in in shape for it, I'm gonna have a goal set and that's gonna keep me on the right track."

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