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After pondering retirement during long layoff, Al Iaquinta feels he has ‘unfinished business’ in the UFC

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

With his body and mind going through a lot over the last two years, Al Iaquinta couldn’t help but think he might be at the end of the line as a fighter.

As it turns out, the former lightweight title challenger found the motivation within himself to keep going and now he is expected to return at UFC 268 against Bobby Green, the promotion recently announced during UFC Vegas 35’s broadcast. It will be Iaquinta’s first fight since a unanimous decision loss to Dan Hooker at UFC 243 in October 2018, and his first after recovering from several injuries, most notably his knee.

When asked by Ariel Helwani on Wednesday’s edition of The MMA Hour if the long road back had him pondering retirement, Iaquinta admitted that was a possibility many times.

“Yeah, [I thought about that] a lot,” Iaquinta said. “There was probably 75, 80, 90 percent of the time over the last two years where I didn’t know if I would [fight], or would be able to, or I don’t even know if I want to.

“Once you fight, [I realized] I can do anything. I really do believe that if I put the energy that I’ve put into fighting, if I put that into anything in the world ... I started this real estate thing and I did pretty freaking good out the gate because I put [a lot of] my energy into it, but I wasn’t able to put all of my energy into it because I had made myself into a fighter. There’s nothing that compares to that. I really feel like that’s what I was meant to do.”

Not only was Iaquinta dealing with the physical and mental toll the injuries took on him, but the UFC announcing his fight with Green before he put pen to paper also had the 34-year-old shaking his head as he looks to bounce back from consecutive decision losses.

Considering everything he has experienced over the last couple of years, Iaquinta feels his mind is in the best possible place ahead of his return to the octagon.

“There’s no one as tough as me. There’s no one that can solve a problem within 15 minutes as good as I can,” Iaquinta explained. “There’s guys that are better than me. Like, Kevin Lee — that was a problem I solved pretty well in 25 minutes. That guy’s a tank, but there’s a weakness there. All the other fights, especially the last two that I lost, there were definitely avenues where I could’ve won those fights, but I messed up. I know that I can make those corrections and I have unfinished business. This is what I was meant to do.

“I’m not a young kid anymore. I’m getting to the point where I’m a mature fighter, a mature person. Over these last two years where I haven’t been fighting, I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge of the world and myself being around my teammates. I think it’s all coming together at the right time. This is the perfect fight for me to come back to — it’s at MSG, and it’s unreal. The card is unreal. Everyone is so excited and this is gonna be fun. I’ve earned every bit of this. I put so much work in and I’m looking forward to that fight camp focus. I feel like I’m gonna get so far ahead of everybody over the next couple of months.”