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UFC Nashville: Iaquinta says Sanchez’s mentality makes him a much more dangerous opponent

UFC lightweight fan favorite Al Iaquinta discusses why Diego Sanchez’s “crazy” behavior makes him a much more dangerous opponent than most.

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UFC 183: Lauzon v Iaquinta Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Tonight, “Ragin’” Al Iaquinta will make his return to the Octagon after a two-year hiatus stemming from a knee injury incurred in his last fight, a split-decision victory over Jorge Masvidal. Iaquinta faces 12-year UFC veteran Diego Sanchez in the co-main event, a challenge he’s not taking lightly.

In a recent interview with the Three Amigos Podcast, Iaquinta discussed his 35-year-old opponent’s skillset, noting that while the edges have been showing some wear-and-tear, he’s prepared for the very best version of Sanchez.

“I’ve been preparing for him a lot longer than he’s been preparing for me. I remember him on The Ultimate Fighter when I was just barely getting into the sport. I was only wrestling at the time, and still playing with the idea of getting into MMA. I remember that crazy guy who was just so mentally strong and tough.

When you look at his record, he’s only lost to the toughest competition. None of the guys he’s lost to were a cakewalk. At the same time, I can see a little bit of a decline over his last few fights. It’s a tough style to have, going out and getting into all out wars in every single fight. He’s not getting any younger, and his fight style hasn’t changed either. I’m not counting on that, by any means, but I think it’s something that he has to look at for himself.”

Physical talent, skill and heart are not the only factors that make for a dangerous opponent. The mental aspect plays a big part when taking full measure of an MMA athlete. Diego Sanchez has always traveled off the beaten path, and his recent interview on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani was the perfect example of that. Iaquinta believes that Sanchez’ seemingly “crazy” behavior makes him an even more dangerous opponent than most.

“When I heard that interview, I was like ‘Holy Shit! I need some of that. Give me some of that shit!’ [laughs] So, the guy smoked up, he freaked out thinking he was having a heart attack and then he talked to God! He was talking to Jesus. He was in a fasting state. Holy shit! I don’t even know what was going on there, but I thought it was great. Good for him. If that’s what’s gonna help you quit smoking weed, then good for you.

That’s a dangerous person in the cage, though, because you’ve got a guy who really believes he was talking to God. He really believes that he can go as hard as he can for three 5-minute rounds, that he can beat me. I know I’m kind of laughing about it and everything, but somebody that has a mind that strong is a dangerous fight for anybody, and I’m definitely not looking past it.”

You can listen to the rest of this great interview HERE at the 55:50 mark of the audio. Remember, if you're looking for us on SoundCloud or iTunes, we're under the MMA Nation name. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, Iain Kidd and Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Pod.