Al Iaquinta tore his right knee up about two years ago and spent more than 24 months away from the UFC. The Long Island native is going through something similar again — with his left knee.
Iaquinta told Ariel Helwani on the 400th episode of The MMA Hour on Monday that he tore his PCL and sprained his MCL. He said he’s trying to forego surgery and trying to strengthen the leg though physical therapy. The hope, Iaquinta said, is to fight in a few months.
However, he could push the timeline up if a certain UFC lightweight is set to stand across the Octagon from him.
“I don’t know,” Iaquinta said. “I think I can still kick the shit out of Kajan Johnson on one knee. I think I could really do it.”
Iaquinta and Johnson have exchanged harsh words over the last few months. There was a confrontation between the two of them at the UFC Athlete Retreat and June. The origin of the rivalry was Johnson mentioning Iaquinta in a rap song last year. Both Iaquinta and Johnson have the same nickname: “Ragin.’”
“It was just creepy,” Iaquinta said of the lyrics. “I was like, ‘What are you doing, bro?’ Do something else.”
Iaquinta, 30, is coming off a first-round knockout of Diego Sanchez in April. He’s currently on a five-fight winning streak. But he has to recover from his current knee injury before stepping back in the cage, likely even if Johnson were the opponent.
The last few years have taught Iaquinta something about himself, he said. At one time, while dealing with the torn knee and contract issues with the UFC, he said he would retire and focus on his real-estate job. But Iaquinta has come to the realization that fighting actually centers him.
“My life is like the most structured and organized,” he said. “I made more money selling real estate when I had a fight coming up. My diet, everything is good. When I have a fight coming up, I’m like on point. So I get a good schedule, regimen and like nothing matters except for that day when I’m about to fight. Everything works out.”
On the other hand, Iaquinta said he has a hard time developing as a person when he’s fighting, so only having one fight since 2015 has been enlightening.
“I feel like my whole life stops when I fight,” Iaquinta said. “I feel like my whole life is just dedicated to fighting. I’m not like evolving.”
The whole thing has been a learning experience. Iaquinta has gone from prospect to solid UFC fighter to contender to injured to sometimes malcontent before our eyes. He said he regrets some of the things he’s done, including drunken outbursts during the UFC Athlete Retreat.
Perhaps “Raging Al” is becoming more mature now that he has turned 30. If not that, he at least has a different view of his life and MMA career.
“I did picture myself as being the champion now,” Iaquinta said. “I never really cared about anything in life. It was like once I get the champion thing, everything is gonna work out. Now I gotta kind of be like, I gotta work on some things and if it comes, it comes.”