Iaquinta looking to secure UFC spot after Ultimate Fighter finale
For some, the desire to be part of the biggest Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the world is so great that they will subject themselves to almost anything in order to realise that dream and secure a spot on the roster.
Al Iaquinta (5-1-1) has been one such fighter, locked up in a house with 15 other prospective fighters for a record 12 weeks.
Cameras are recording his every waking moment, only for this vision to be released back into the real world last Friday in preparation for this week’s finale.
“It’s been pretty crazy, really there hasn’t been any freedom at all,” Iaquinta explains about his recent return to reality.
“It’s been hectic, with cameras and sound still following me, it’s been a lot of media and training.”
This type of spotlight could be off-putting to many, but the Long Island, New York native has had some tips from someone who went through The Ultimate Fighter experience, his trainer Matt Serra having featured on season four of the show.
Given the new format on the show, Iaquinta admitted that most lessons had to be discovered by himself.
“He told me about his own experience, he told me as much as he could but given that this is a whole new format – the 12 weeks and the live fights – I had to figure it out for myself.”
On the show Iaquinta fought three times in as many weeks, to position himself with the greatest chance of a UFC contract and custom Harley Davidson motorcycle, against fellow Team Faber competitor Mike Chiesa (7-0).
For Chiesa, his journey has been an emotional one as we experienced the loss of his father and his decision to remain in the house, giving him an outstanding two back-to-back final wins via total knockout.
Given that the two have been team mates and room mates, there could have been the possibility that the seemingly calm and casual Team Faber had been split in support of the two fighters.
“Well since we found out who was in the final we have been released, doing our own thing,” Iaquinta says.
“We have our own coaches from home here with us so there has been no split in the team.”
Additionally Iaquinta has identified what could be the Washington fighter’s weakness.
“The guys he has fought have had their breaking point. They were winning up until a point and then they rolled over.”
Iaquinta is determined that this isn’t for him.
“I don’t know how to do that (roll over). I think he will be in for a rude awakening.”
As top pick for Team Faber, the 24-year old is favourite to take out the title, but that doesn’t faze him.
“I didn’t feel pressure (to perform during the series). In fact it (number one pick) gave me more confidence, knowing that he (Faber) believed in me.”
“If he does, then I should believe in myself.”
It is quite easy to chat with Iaquinta as he details the TUF journey.
“It’s much easier being out of the house. While I feel as good as I could, it was gruelling and hectic making weight three times in a row, especially when it got boring and we would hang out in the kitchen and start picking (at the food).”
“There was a magic list where we could write down what we wanted and the next day it would arrive,” Iaquinta adds.
“I tried to order as healthy as I could.”
While having one eye on the prize, it is interesting to know what else drives Iaquinta to fight.
“I’m driven by showing everyone what I have worked hard to do. I have travelled around to learn all the cool techniques and I’m excited to show everyone what I have.”
Finally, the next graduate from the school of TUF is happy to share words of wisdom for any potential Australian applicants looking to fight in the series.
“Go to the tryouts and give it your all,” Iaquinta says.
“You have to win that one fight to get into the house. Get past that one fight, get into the house and then you can worry about all the other stuff.”
For Iaquinta, he is one fight away from a lucrative UFC contract. At this moment, nothing matters more.