Al Iaquinta’s coach Matt Serra knows more than a little bit about coming out on top in an underdog situation. He was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Comeback season, and no one expected him to do much with the title shot that earned him against the invincible Georges St-Pierre. But Serra shocked the world, knocking GSP out in the first round.
Now Serra is hoping to recreate that situation with his pupil Iaquinta. “Raging Al” will be stepping into the UFC 223 main event on a day’s notice to face powerhouse Khabib Nurmagomedov. The bookies certainly don’t think the New York native has much of a chance. Khabib is as much as a -800 favorite to Al’s +500 dog. But that doesn’t bother Serra.
“We’re going to be talking up until it’s time to go,” Serra told MMA Junkie. “But Al’s a fighter, and Al’s a dangerous mofo when you lock him in that cage. Everybody’s human, so don’t get caught up in that. Us ‘Strong Island’ boys don’t get caught up in the hype. I respect Khabib. I think he’s one of the best.”
The UFC has clarified that Iaquinta will be champ if he beats Nurmagomedov, regardless of the NYSAC declaring him ineligible over .2 of a pound during the weigh-ins.
“If you beat the man, you’re the man, whether you have the strap around your waist or not. A lot of guys wouldn’t take this fight, or they would make some crazy demands. Raging Al is taking the fight against arguably the most dangerous 155-pounder on the planet. That alone makes me super proud. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shocks the world.”
Iaquinta certainly has the tools to do it. He’s got some of the best wrestling Khabib has faced in the UFC. He’s currently sitting on knockout wins in four of his five victories. He may be ranked #11 to Khabib’s #2, but who knows how high up he’d be if he hadn’t spent the last two years raging against the UFC machine? I guess we’ll find out Saturday April 7th when they close him and Nurmagomedov in the cage.