“Raging Al” Iaquinta Is the Hero That the UFC Needs Right Now

By Raphael Garcia

There’s something to be said for men and women who are willing to step into the Octagon and put everything on the line time and time again. But there’s something extra special about those that are willing to stand up to the powers that run the UFC. This is what makes it so amazing to watch Al Iaquinta continue to challenge the UFC at every turn. His latest comments are a reminder that Iaquinta is the hero the sport both needs and deserves.

Last week Iaquinta continued his fight against UFC President Dana White, this time pushing back against afternoon weigh-ins returning. In the midst of preparation for his upcoming UFC Fight Night 135 bout against Justin Gaethje, he was adamant in his comments to Brett Okamoto of ESPN that he plans to weigh in the morning before the bout, regardless of what White says:

“I’m going to weigh-in and then I’m going to start eating. I signed a contract under the assumption we are weighing in in the morning, so we are. There will be no afternoon weigh-in, 100 percent.”

In today’s MMA landscape, it’s clear that fighters who push back against White are placed in crosshairs. Just look at what occurred with Yair Rodriguez after he tried to leverage his way to a higher payday. After tweeting “#FakeNews” in response to a fight announcement, he found himself without a UFC contract a few hours later. Iaquinta did the same thing when the UFC initially announced his upcoming bout with Gaethje, but did not meet the same fate.

“That was me saying, ‘I’m not freaking Yair Rodriguez.’ You cut me; I’m not crying and coming back. Dana White has no power over me. That guy has zero power over me.”

What’s even more noteworthy than his digs at White is the fact that Iaquinta is a board member of Project Spearhead, the group that is actively pushing for the unionization of fighters. Many attribute Lauren Murphy’s release earlier this year to her being closely related to and very vocal about this organization’s cause. Iaquinta is just as vocal, and what happened with Murphy hasn’t deterred him, despite the clear risks that come with being so outspoken. This isn’t new for Iaquinta, however, as that outspokenness is what garnered him the affectionate nickname of “Ragin’ Al.”

The question is, how much rope does “Ragin’ Al” have? He last fought at UFC 223, where he did a “favor” for the organization by fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov on a few hours’ notice, barely missing the 155-pound weight limit at 155.2. Imagine if he’d had won that fight (and made weight for it), becoming the organization’s new lightweight champion. After their issues with Conor McGregor, the UFC would have found itself with another extremely tough champion to work with, and it wouldn’t be completely out of character for the promotion to come up with an arbitrary reason to create another interim lightweight title en route to eventually stripping him. All that being said, Iaquinta has made it clear that the promotion (and its president) isn’t ready for a fight against him:

“I’ve got to keep fighting inside the cage and out. The UFC needs a person like me, because I love this sport, and Dana — I don’t know if he loves this anymore. I think he’s just addicted to the spotlight and making it all about him.”

Al Iaquinta has a number of fights ahead of him. He faces the very dangerous Justin Gaethje in August at UFC Fight Night 135. But before he even steps into the Octagon, he will have to grapple with a company that typically expects its fighters to submit. And even if “Ragin’ Al” isn’t planning to tap, the UFC and its president will try to break him nonetheless.

UFC Fight Night 135

Justin Gaethje vs. Al Iaquinta

UFC Fight Night 135: Gaethje vs. Iaquinta takes place August 25, 2018 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night 135 Pre-Fight Analysis

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