Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has asked former lightweight title contender, Al Iaquinta (14-4-1), to throw down against longtime 155-pound veteran, Donald Cerrone (35-11, 1 NC), in the UFC on ESPN+ 9 main event, taking place this Saturday night (May 4, 2019) inside Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Their five-round affair comes nearly eight years after the promotion first tried to pair Iaquinta with Cerrone. Long before “Ragin’ Al” slugged his way into the world’s preeminent mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, thanks to an impressive run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15, the part-time Realtor was a “loose cannon” on the New York regional circuit.
“I think I was 4-0 as a professional, fighting in Ring of Combat, and I had a fight scheduled,” Iaquinta told MMA Fighting. “And I got a call from a manager and he was like, ‘Would you fight in the UFC in like three weeks?’ So I said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll take that opportunity any time.’ I end up finding out that it was Donald Cerrone.”
The event in question was the UFC 131 pay-per-view (PPV) back in June 2011, also in Canada, headlined by the heavyweight showdown between Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin. It was just the second UFC fight for Cerrone after a successful run for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
“One of his opponents had fallen out and they were looking for a short-notice replacement. They ended up going with a different guy,” Iaquinta continued. “But they were considering me for it, and I don’t know what made them choose the other guy, but he beat the crap out of the other guy. He was just like a jiu-jitsu fighter, and it was pretty crazy. I remember watching that fight at home and being like, ‘Oh man, I should be in there right now.’ It would’ve been fun.”
That “other guy” was Brazilian import Vagner Rocha, who ended up losing a fairly one-sided decision. “Ceara” would fight three more times for UFC between 2011-14, but only managed to defeat the hapless Cody McKenzie along the way.
Cerrone, meanwhile, is one of the most active fighters to ever compete for UFC, having appeared a staggering 30 times since his 2011 debut. As for Iaquinta, he took some time off in 2016 to deal with a contract dispute, but has since worked his way up to No. 4 in the official rankings.
It would have been hard to pick against Cerrone had they originally fought at UFC 131, but here they are nearly eight years later in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 9 and Iaquinta is an entirely different fighter, which may explain why he’s also the -125 favorite.