This past weekend at UFC Fight Night 108 in Nashville, a returning Al Iaquinta showed no signs of ring rust as he steamrolled through the original Ultimate Fighter winner, Diego Sanchez, with a devastating first round knockout.
‘Raging’ Al had been absent from competition for over two years between a serious knee injury and ongoing disputes with the UFC. The Long Island native has been fighting in the organisation since 2012 and was an Ultimate Fighter finalist where he lost to current top lightweight Michael Chiesa.
However, Iaquinta may best be remembered for an explicit post-fight Octagon interview after he was awarded a controversial split decision victory over current welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal back in 2015.
The 29-year-old has been in a dispute with UFC officials for a substantial amount of his relatively short career. After his victory over Masvidal, Iaquinta had two fights cancelled, with Bobby Green and Gilbert Melendez being forced to withdraw. Thus, Iaquinta decided to get surgery on a long-standing knee injury that he had been carrying for several years.
According to a November 2016 Fox Sports interview with the Serra-Longo product, he wanted a certain type of surgery to reconstruct his knee but the UFC insisted on a stem cell treatment. Several months went by and his knee had not improved which led to him receiving the treatment he initially desired. That procedure cost $60,000 and for a considerable amount of time the UFC made it clear they would only be willing to pay $15,000. Eventually, the company opted to pay the full price of the surgery.
When Iaquinta was healed and ready to compete again the landscape of the UFC had changed significantly. Prior to his bout with Masvidal, the New Yorker had just penned a new five fight deal, however, this was pre-Reebok sponsorship era. Obviously, that meant the fighter would take a considerable hit on income and it made his current deal of $26,000 to show and $26,000 to win look even more paltry.
Iaquinta was scheduled to face Thiago Alves at UFC 205 in his home state of New York. A dream situation for the local soon turned sour, however. After initially signing the fight agreement, Iaquinta took everything into consideration and made the courageous decision to withdraw from the card because he felt essentially, he ‘would be fighting for free’ due to taxes and the cost of funding a fight-camp.
Nonetheless, he attempted to find a compromise with UFC officials by renegotiating. Negotiations never came to fruition, though. When his management contacted the matchmaker at the time, Joe Silva, they were met with a blunt response filled with expletives(per Iaquinta himself during an appearance on The MMA Hour).
The aforementioned Fox Sports interview also revealed that another factor in Iaquinta’s decision to pull out of UFC 205 was the UFC’s decision to ban him from receiving post fight bonuses for his next three fights. This punishment came from Iaquinta requesting absence from a fighter’s summit in early 2016. The following day ‘Raging’ Al posted a picture of himself at the beach and was immediately contacted by the organisation and notified of his punishment.
Eventually, the UFC did convince Iaquinta to take another fight, against Diego Sanchez, and boy did he make a statement. Post fight, it was clear to see Iaquinta was as frustrated as ever. When his teammate Aljamain Sterling handed him his Reebok shirt, Iaquinta blew his nose into it and gave it right back. He further displayed his irritation during the post-fight interview.
“(The UFC) The sooner you realise I’m the man the better we’ll both be,” said the New Yorker.
When pressed by Brian Stann on how quickly he’d like to return to the Octagon, Iaquinta showed disinterest in a quick turnaround, suggesting that his full-time job as a realtor is his main focus.
“I dunno, I’m selling houses. If you’re selling a house hit me up,” said Iaquinta.
Iaquinta elaborated further on a potential return during the post-fight media scrum per MMAfighting, where he referenced his inferior pay as a reason we may not see him again,
“I don’t know if it’s worth it. I don’t know if the money is worth everything I go through to do this,” said the frustrated fighter. “It worked out tonight, but it’s not gonna be that easy. So I don’t know. I’ve gotta think if it’s worth it. I’ve got a lot of injuries. It’s a lot of years lost that I’m not making any money. And now I’m not making sponsorships. I’m in the video game and I haven’t gotten a dollar from it and I don’t even have an Xbox and they haven’t even sent me a video game.”
The Long Islander further advanced his stance by stating that he is quite content with his real estate career and that fighting does not come before his health,
“I love fighting, but I’m not gonna ruin my body. This is no game, man. This is for real. [Getting paid $26,000 and $26,000] is not a lot of money. For doing what I’m doing, for being on TV, for me driving the car I’m driving, I gotta be living a lot better than this. I could be doing anything in the world and making the same kind of money. And I don’t have the risk of getting hurt.”
“I don’t need to fight now. I have my real-estate career. I’m set with that,” he added. “So, if I want to fight, I’ll fight. I really enjoy selling the real estate. I got my fix for fighting for now. I’m good for now. I haven’t thought about it. I just thought about tonight. I just wanted to get in there and have fun and that’s exactly what I did.”
It seems tensions between the UFC and Iaquinta will not be decreasing anytime soon based on the fighter’s latest tweets. The number-15 ranked lightweight posted this tweet soon after his stunning performance.
Hey @ufc go fuck yourself
— Al Iaquinta (@ALIAQUINTA) April 23, 2017
Shortly after, Iaquinta vented his frustration further upon learning he did not receive a performance bonus for his brutal knockout and virtually flawless display.
Fuck you https://t.co/UoGqPspJAw
— Al Iaquinta (@ALIAQUINTA) April 23, 2017
Iaquinta is a young, top prospect in a division that is littered with outstanding fighters. He is now on a five-fight win-streak, four of which are TKO victories, and he holds victories over quality, seasoned fighters like Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal and another highly touted future Fight Night headliner, Kevin Lee. Unfortunately, Iaquinta is at the mercy of his bosses and unless the UFC are willing to loosen the purse strings a bit for a fighter who certainly deserves it, then we may see an excellent talent go to waste.