UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta once had a very public feud with his employer. However, heading into this weekend’s UFC on ESPN+ 9 from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, he couldn’t be happier.
The 180 that Iaqunita has made recently in his career has been improbable, to say the least. “Raging” Al would often speak out when he felt like he was being disrespected or overlooked by the promotion. That would, in turn, lead to a growing rift between he and the UFC shot-callers.
However, that’s all water under the bridge now as Iaquinta explains.
“I’m definitely just happier I think in general,” Iaquinta said (via MMANews). “I’ve got a good rapport with Hunter Campbell and Sean Shelby. I went out to the Performance Institute and got some great training out there. I met with those guys, my father came out and we had a nice dinner together.
“We understand each other a lot better now and I think they understand my gripes and I think they’re doing their best to make me happy. I know what they expect out of me and I’m doing my best to make them happy. It’s a good working relationship.”
Part of that may be the fact that Iaquinta saves April 2018’s UFC 223 by fighting Khabib. Though he didn’t take home the title on that night, Iaquinta believes that was the turning point of his career.
He also believes he was much closer to winning the fight than it appeared:
“I needed that for everybody to see what I’m really made of and I put in the work to rise to the occasion in a situation like that,” Iaquinta said. “I was confident that I was going to go in there and win that fight. I was one punch away from really shaking things up. I was thrust into that thing pretty quickly and it’s something I’m focused on getting back and doing it the right way.”
“Raging” Al will look to make it a quick two straight victories against Donald Cerrone this weekend. Having dispatched Kevin Lee last December, the Long Island native is thrilled to have another high-profile fight.
“The ranking really doesn’t mean much. Everyone knows where he’s at and where he’s been and who he is and he’s just as dangerous as everybody in the top five,” Iaquinta said about Cerrone. “I think he’s got wins over some great guys. That fight with Leon Edwards, that was a close fight and that guy has been tearing through everybody. Mike Perry is a tough out for anybody. He made that last guy look how he should have made him look. He’s up there for sure.”
Another title shot may be in Iaquinta’s future. However, he knows that a win over Cerrone likely doesn’t get him there as Nurmagomedov is rumored to be unifying the lightweight title against the interim champ Dustin Poirier.
“The division is going to shake out until September. It’s going to be whoever emerges, who has dominant performances and who the fans want to see in that spot,” Iaquinta said. “I think the fans respect the body of work I’ve put together over the last couple of years and the way that I handle myself, I think I resonate with the fans.
“I think the UFC is behind me, too. I think the UFC believes in me and I’m a performing member of the squad.”