Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta
When the news first broke that Tony Ferguson had been forced out of his fight with Nurmagomedov due to a knee injury less than a week out from UFC 223, most fans’ first reaction was to laugh it off as an April Fool’s Day hoax.
Unfortunately, it emerged that Holloway really had torn his knee ligament by tripping over a wire while doing media on a FOX studio set.
Then came another bombshell – featherweight champion Max Holloway had agreed to step up to lightweight to fight Nurmagomedov for the belt on just six days’ notice.
However, Holloway’s nutritionist George Lockhart warned that the fighter faced a daunting weight cut that was equal to the largest he’d ever personally overseen to get down to the championship 155-pound limit, and in the end that proved to be too much, with ‘Blessed’ being pulled from the fight on the day of the weigh-ins by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) due to health concerns.
Remarkably, even at that late stage the UFC still managed to rustle up yet another replacement in Al Iaquinta, who had previously been scheduled to fight Paul Felder, agreeing to step up to main event the card opposite Nurmagomedov for the title on just 24 hours notice.
As many people expected, Nurmagomedov was able to dominate Iaquinta in the fight on his way to winning the lightweight title, but ‘Raging Al’s’ willingness to step in and save the show earned him a great deal of respect and more than likely the best payday of his career.