Al Iaquinta feels his mixture of experience and youthfulness motivates him, and you can be sure he’ll be motivated against Cowboy Cerrone this Saturday at UFC Ottawa.
Ottawa, ON — Raging Al Iaquinta seems to be a much cooler customer these days. In fact, if his relationship with the UFC could be understated as strained in the past, these days, things are going much more smoothly. Headlining UFC Ottawa this Saturday in Canada’s chilly capital city, Iaquinta admits that it’s more of a warm front between himself and the promotion.
Things started looking up after his last-minute fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 last April. Not surprisingly, given Iaquinta (14-4-1) stepped in to save the card, despite the title being up for grabs only for Nurmagoemdov. Iaquinta, after all, had already weighed in for a non-title fight. Still, to date, no one has given Khabib Nurmagomedov a better run for his money.
Iaquinta addressed the subject a couple of times at the UFC Ottawa media day on Thursday, with Cageside Press and other media outlets present. “I think I kind of showed them really what I was about,” Iaquinta said about the changed relationship after that fight.
Earlier, he described his relationship with the UFC by saying that “I think we have a good working relationship. I have a good rapport with Hunter Campbell, Sean Shelby, I’ve met with them a couple of times. They understand me a lot better, I understand what they’re looking for a lot more.”
Admitting that “there’s still stuff that we hash out when we need to,” Iaquinta added “but it’s a good working relationship, and I’m in a way better place I think. We both are.”
His real estate venture, something he dove into while on the outs with the UFC, likely helped. “I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years through the fight game, and just through life in general. It’s unfortunate, a lot of the things that have happened, but it made me a lot better person,” said Iaquinta. “So much more well-rounded. I was just like a fighter, lost. If I was later in my life, and I kept on that path and then fighting kind of didn’t work out, I probably would have been real lost. At that point, it was kind of convenient for me to take a step back, figure out some other opportunities to make money, and then come back to fighting when the time was right.”
Having said all that, Iaquinta is not looking too far ahead, and not banking on any certainties regarding the spoils that might go to the winner of his fight with Cowboy Cerrone. “I’m not really thinking that far ahead of it,” he said of whether he was a fight or two away from a possible title shot. “I’m thinking about Saturday night. The [ranking] number might not be too high next to [Cerrone’s] name, but everyone knows who he is. The fans cheer louder for that guy than anybody. He’s been in there with the best of the best for a very long time. I was watching him since I got into the sport.”
Cowboy, then, has his full attention. “I’ve seen his whole progression, I’ve been watching him way longer than he’s been watching me.”
Asked whether he might hold an edge in terms of mileage, with Cerrone having the most fights in the Zuffa era, Iaquinta replied that “it could be either way. I think my youthfulness is at an all-time high, and my experience is at an all-time high. I’ve been in there with the best guys, but I’m also young, I’m hungry, I’m watering at the mouth to get at those top guys again. That title shot. I’m just motivated.”
Motivation could go far, given the sudden clarity found in the lightweight division. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier will fight, likely in September, to unify the 155lb title. Conor McGregor appears out of the title picture, at least for now. Tony Ferguson is out there, but his health remains a question mark.
“The division was in kind of a crazy limbo there for a while,” Iaquinta assessed the situation. “I think it’s still a little up in the air, but a good performance against a guy like the Cowboy is what I need right now, and will put me right up there with everybody.”
Al Iaquinta faces Cowboy Cerrone in the main event of UFC Ottawa, this weekend at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON. The fight airs live on ESPN+/TSN.