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Al Iaquinta readies for UFC return with future up in the air

Wantagh's Al Iaquinta knocked out Rodrigo Damm in

Wantagh's Al Iaquinta knocked out Rodrigo Damm in third round to win their lightweight bout at UFC Fight Night 50 at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Credit: Mario Gonzalez

Al Iaquinta seems happy.

He has his real estate license, he is learning about his new industry and he’s selling homes.

Still, something was missing.

“When you sell a house,” Iaquinta said, “there’s not 20,000 people screaming at you.”

No, that sort of atmosphere mostly comes along with athletic competition and political protests. In the case of Wantagh’s Iaquinta, it was inside the UFC’s octagon as a professional mixed martial artist.

When he returns April 22 against Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight in Nashville, Tennessee, it will have been two years and three weeks since he last heard such a throng of people yelling at him.

“It’s a lot different. I haven’t fought in two years. I got bills that I have to pay,” Iaquinta said. “Gonna have fun with it, more than anything. I already know how to fight. Just get in shape, make weight and go in there, that’s it.”

He’ll do so as the No. 14 ranked lightweight despite the two-year layoff. He carries with him a four-fight win streak. Since Iaquinta’s last fight, the 35-year-old Sanchez has won two fights and lost two.

Still, Sanchez (29-9) always presents a challenge to opponents with his wild striking style.

“For the money that they’re paying me, this is the kind of the fight, he’s not a ranked guy,” Iaquinta said. “He’s kind of on the decline. He’s lost to guys I’ve beat [Joe Lauzon]. But, I mean, he’s still dangerous and he’s still absolutely out of his mind. He’s definitely going to be dangerous the whole time.”

Iaquinta was scheduled to fight Thiago Alves last November at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden. He withdrew from that fight in September over a dispute about his payout for that fight.

He’ll fight Sanchez on the same contract terms that he had in place before UFC 205.

“Thinking back on it, I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it at the time,” Iaquinta said.

At the time, Iaquinta had said that he basically felt like he was retired. That changed in a hotel bar in Colorado at the end of January.

He was in Denver to help fellow Serra-Longo fight team member Aljamain Sterling prepare for his fight against Raphael Assuncao. Iaquinta said he happened upon UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard after weigh-ins in the hotel bar. They got to talking.

That night, Shelby posted a photo to his Twitter account of him, Iaquinta and his coaches Ray Longo and Matt Serra.

“Im dead & bloated but w/ royalty & look for Al Iaquinta soon in an Octagon near you,” Shelby tweeted that night.

Two weeks later at UFC 208 in Brooklyn, Iaquinta’s co-main event fight with Sanchez was announced.

Iaquinta isn’t sure if this is the start of another run in the lightweight division, or just a one-off fight for him right now.

Between following the real estate market on Long Island, selling houses and teaching private lessons in between training for his fight, who has the time to plan beyond April 22?

“I had to get one more in before I turn 30,” said Iaquinta jokingly, whose birthday is April 30. “That screen’ll say 29. I fight, a little extra money. That’s all it is. I just wanted a free vacation.”

New York Sports