Al Iaquinta will have the opportunity of a lifetime tomorrow night (Sat., April. 7, 2018) at UFC 223 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, when he takes on undefeated Russian contender Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event.
Iaquinta, who was originally slated to fight Paul Felder on the opening bout of the main card, is filling the spot that Tony Ferguson, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, and “Irish Dragon” couldn’t.
Luckily, Iaquinta was able to wiggle his way into the UFC 223 headliner, allowing Nurmagomedov to stay on the depleted PPV card and giving his fellow New York natives something to cheer about during a week full of turmoil. And while Iaquinta is technically not in line to win the lightweight title should he defeat Nurmagomedov after weighing in .2 pounds over the 155-pound limit, UFC president Dana White reassured fight fans that “Ragin’ Al” will still be considered champion if he pulls off the impossible.
“If you look at where Al was ranked, and his last five fights, he made the most sense,” White said during UFC’s 25th anniversary press conference earlier tonight in Brooklyn (full replay here). “The problem with Al was he was 155.2 (pounds). That was with his underwear on. The commission literally weighed his underwear, and they were .2 (pounds), so he made weight.
“The title is on the line. As far as the commission goes, Khabib is the one who is eligible for the title. But obviously if ‘Ragin’ Al wins this fight, he’s the champ. If you beat the man, you are the man.”
We’ve really never heard White explain a title fight quite like this, but UFC 223 has proved to be a unique situation all around. At least fight fans know that UFC is going to properly reward Iaquinta should he defeat the baddest 155-pound fighter on the planet.
“We as the fans and as the people know who the champ is if you win the fight. If you win the fight, you’re the champ,” White said. “To be the man, you beat the man, and if you beat the man, it’s hard to deny that he’s not the champion. All technicalities we will figure out after the fight.
“Per the New York State Athletic Commission, this is not a title fight for him. It’s an actual regulation that a guy who doesn’t make exactly on weight cannot be the champion. So we’ll see. Obviously, if he wins this fight, we’ll figure that out.”
As a massive underdog, Iaquinta is going to have to shock the world if he’s going to beat Nurmagomedov, who has willingly agreed to fight a handful of different fighters this past week. This may be one of Iaquinta’s only chances to hoist UFC gold so it will be interesting to see how he attacks the first couple of rounds.
After all, the Long Island realtor was only scheduled to go three.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 223 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” at 8 p.m. ET before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.