For Al Iaquinta, not fighting inside the UFC's octagon for 15 months has its positives.
"It's good for your mind when you have nothing on the horizon," said the lightweight mixed martial artist from Wantagh. "You're just training for yourself. You can just worry about yourself and get better every day.
That's nice, but . . .
"But at a point, it's like, 'All right, I'm getting better, now I want to get in there. I want to fight. I need it now,' " Iaquinta said. "That's the point I was at."
That point included a look at his phone each night after practice, hoping his management team would call him with the details. A date, a city, an opponent. He'd have settled for a timetable of when he might possibly, perhaps, maybe, fight next.
About six weeks ago, his phone rang. The date -- Saturday, Aug. 31. The city -- Milwaukee -- for UFC 164. The opponent?
"I wasn't even listening to him who [it was]," Iaquinta said. "I just said, 'Let's go.' "
Iaquinta (5-2-1) will go against Ryan Couture (6-2), son of former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Randy Couture. The prelim bout will air live on facebook.com/ufc. In the UFC 164 main event on pay-per-view, Benson Henderson defends his lightweight title against Anthony Pettis.
Iaquinta, who trains with Ray Longo and Matt Serra, was supposed to fight in April on the UFC 159 card in Newark. When his opponent, Joe Proctor, pulled out with an injury, Iaquinta chose to sit out as well to rehab a sprained knee.
Not the knee he hurt when fighting three times in 15 days in the summer of 2012 as he advanced to the final round on Season 15 of "The Ultimate Fighter." That required surgery shortly after Iaquinta lost by submission to Michael Chiesa midway through the first round. That was the one season in the show's nine years to be produced in real time and broadcast live fights.
Iaquinta said he is completely healthy for his return to the cage.
"No injuries," Iaquinta said with a sigh of relief. "I'm just happy and excited to get in there. I'm actually here, so I'm happy."