At UFC 223, many people believed that it would be extremely difficult for Al Iaquinta to get out of the first round against Khabib Nurmagomedov, but his heart and determination helped him survive until the end of the fight.
Al Iaquinta was originally scheduled to fight Paul Felder at UFC 223, but after Khabib Nurmagomedov’s replacement opponent Max Holloway pulled out, Al Iaquinta stepped in to take on the man known as “The Eagle”.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is perhaps the most feared fighter in the UFC. He holds an unbeaten record of 26-0 and even with a full training camp to prepare, he is a puzzle that is still yet to be solved. Al Iaquinta took on this gargantuan challenge on only two days notice, but he proved again why fans love to watch “Raging Al” compete. Khabib Nurmagomedov won via unanimous decision, but Al Iaquinta’s coach Ray Longo believes that the result may have been different if Al Iaquinta had more time to prepare.
“As a coach, I’m blown away because I don’t even know how he did it. That was just will and determination you were watching in there – coupled with a guy who’s very technically skilled,” Longo told MMAjunkie Radio.
“But for me, it was like, ‘Wow, what if we really trained for five rounds, man?’ It would’ve been a totally different ballgame.”
It’s unclear how Al Iaquinta would have been able to do if he was given a full training camp to prepare for Khabib, but Ray Longo was massively impressed with how Al Iaquinta performed at UFC 223.
“How he even went five rounds is bizarre to me. The kid is just a really special kid,” Longo said. “He has attributes you can’t teach a fighter. As a coach, I can’t teach him what happened in there that night. He’s born with it. He’s a fighter. He loves what he does.”
“I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for Khabib. I love his team. I love him. I love the way he speaks. He’s a true warrior, and I think two guys went in there, they fought, and they put it all on the line. I think there’s a mutual respect, and they both gained (experience) from each other that will last a lifetime.”
Al Iaquinta’s record now stands at 13-4-1 and he has been given a 60-day medical suspension by The New York State Athletic Commission after his defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Did Al Iaquinta exceed your expectations at UFC 223?