Al Iaquinta last man standing for UFC 223 title shot

Updated April 6, 2018 - 9:22 pm

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It was someone from the New York State Athletic Commission’s assignment to weigh Al Iaquinta’s underwear on Friday.

The bizarre aside might be about as perfect a microcosm as possible for one of the strangest weigh-in days in UFC history.

After Max Holloway was pulled from UFC 223 Friday morning when he was deemed medically unfit to continue cutting weight, an odd game of musical chairs ensued until Iaquinta found himself in the final seat.

His reward is a lightweight title bout against undefeated star Khabib Nurmagomedov on Saturday at Barclays Center.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Iaquinta, who was supposed to face Paul Felder. “You get the opportunity, you seize the moment.”

He wasn’t the first choice.

UFC officials first tabbed former champion Anthony Pettis to replace Holloway. Pettis was supposed to face Michael Chiesa, who was removed from the fight after sustaining facial lacerations in Conor McGregor’s bus attack on Thursday.

So Pettis made sense even though he has lost five of his past seven fights, but he reportedly asked for too much money and the commission was concerned whether he could fight five rounds.

Iaquinta and Felder lobbied hard for the fight, and the UFC appeared ready to give it to Felder until the commission decided he wasn’t ranked high enough even though he had won three consecutive fights, all by knockout.

Then it was on to Iaquinta, who had tipped the scales at 155.2 pounds in the morning. That’s acceptable for a nontitle fight for which there is a 1-pound allowance, but not for a title bout.

At some point during the deliberation process, someone from the commission decided to weight Iaquinta’s underwear to show he would have been 155 pounds had he not been wearing them on the scale.

Sanity prevailed, and the calculations never came into play.

But Iaquinta did get the fight against Nurmagomedov even though the commission said it wouldn’t recognize it as a title bout.

The UFC has control of its belts, however, and decided it would use the fight to determine who would replace Conor McGregor as lightweight champion.

“The title is on the line,” UFC president Dana White said during a news conference Friday. “As far as the commission goes, Khabib is the one that’s 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.”

Nurmagomedov has certainly fit that bill. He has won all 25 fights in his pro career and pretty much steamrolled all nine of his UFC opponents.

“This week they asked me to fight with five different guys,” said Nurmagomedov, who accepted Holloway as a late-notice opponent on Sunday after Tony Ferguson suffered an injury. “I said, ‘I’m tired about this. If you can bring King Kong, and he can make 155, let’s go.’”

Iaquinta has a chance to pull one of the more shocking upsets in UFC title fight history on the 11-year anniversary of his coach Matt Serra’s stunning knockout of Georges St. Pierre to win the welterweight title.

“I still don’t know what the hell is going on right now,” Iaquinta said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime right here. Thank you, Khabib, for staying in the fight, and this is the opportunity I’m looking for: Stay ready, seize the moment, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

The bout headlines a revamped main card that includes a women’s strawweight title rematch between champion Rose Namajunas and former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The preliminary card begins at 5 p.m. on FS1, followed by the pay-per-view main card at 7.

More MMA: Follow all of our MMA and UFC coverage online at CoveringTheCage.com and @CoveringTheCage on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Covering The Cage Videos
Las Vegas MMA fighter Joey Ruquet joins Copa Combate tournament
When Combate Americas' Copa Combate tournament takes place on Dec. 7, Las Vegas-based MMA fighter Joey Ruquet will step in for Gaston Reyno and compete for the $100,000 prize money in the 8-man, one night featherweight tournament.
Espino, Chiasson claim UFC contracts with wins at TUF 28 Finale
Juan Espino was crowned as the TUF heavyweight winner when he submitted Justin Frazier at the finale in Las Vegas and Macy Chiasson submitted Pannie Kianzad to become the TUF 28 women's featherweight winner.
Kamaru Usman excited for what's next after TUF 28 win
After taking a win over Rafael dos Anjos at the TUF 28 Finale, UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman says he can be ready for anything that comes next or a quick turnaround if it gets him closer to a title shot.
Dana White on what's next for Usman and the flyweight division
UFC president Dana White spoke with media after the TUF 28 Finale to discuss what's next for the flyweight division and the main event winner, UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman.
Dos Anjos and Usman TUF 28 media day
Rafael dos Anjos and Kamaru Usman talk about facing each other at the TUF 28 Finale at a media day leading up to the Nov. 30 contest. Their welterweight bout will serve as the main event.
Covering The Cage: UFC 229 Press Conference Wraps Up
Covering the Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang go over what happened during the UFC 229 press conference between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like