An intriguing lightweight bout goes down next month in the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC on Fox 31 with a rematch between Al Iaquinta and Kevin Lee.
The pair previously met at UFC 169 in February 2014, with Iaquinta winning by unanimous decision. In the rematch, however, Iaquinta expects a much-improved version of the fighter he defeated almost five years ago, when Lee was just 21 years of age.
“He’s definitely bigger and stronger,” Iaquinta told MMA Fighting. “More mature as a fighter, probably less mature as a person. He’s polished, he’s seasoned. Now he’s been in there with really tough guys. He was cocky when he came into the UFC, he kind of thought that he was gonna run through everything.”
“I definitely humbled him there and he changed his life,” Iaquinta said. “He moved to Vegas, he switched camps. I think I’ve been in the guy’s head for a while and he’s been looking forward to this. There’s two kind of ways this goes. He’s definitely put in the work — he’s all in. A guy willing to move to Las Vegas, because he thinks it’s a better team there is definitely serious. He’s coming to put it on me, I know that for sure.
“On the other hand, I’ve been with Ray [Longo], I’ve been with Matt [Serra], I’ve been with these guys forever. We have such a good bond. [Matt] Frevola coming over, [Aljamain Sterling], [Chris] Weidman. I don’t think he has anybody like that on his team. I don’t think he’s got like a family like I have. Not saying that’s gonna win me the fight, because I’m the one fighting, but I just feel like I put in so much work in my life that I have to beat this guy. That’s it.”
As for his own preparation, Iaquinta claims that his camp heading into this rematch with Lee has been much better than his previous one when he was scheduled to fight Justin Gaethje back in August. “Ragin’ Al” was forced to withdraw from that fight citing an ongoing injury he picked up in his title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov back in April at UFC 223, a fight he accepted on one day’s notice.
“Everything was correct about this and nothing was correct about the last one,” Iaquinta said. “It was like injuries, coming off that Khabib fight I was still banged up. It was quick. I wasn’t happy with a few other things. It just wasn’t right. This is definitely a better fight. I think it’s an intriguing matchup. Just everything. Everything about it, I like. He’s just as tough, if not tougher [than Gaethje]. He might even be just as tough, if not tougher than Khabib. I was sitting front row at his last fight with [Edson] Barboza and I was like, ‘F*ck, I don’t want to be Barboza right now.’ It was brutal, it was not fun to watch. So, I’m training my ass off. I want to be the one doing that to him, for sure.”