The first time Al Iaquinta met Khabib Nurmagomedov, in the last-minute main event of UFC 223, he had about 24 hours to prepare for the undefeated Russian juggernaut. While Iaquinta ultimately lost this fight by decision, he actually performed better than the vast majority of Nurmagomedov’s other opponents.
Speaking on the latest episode of BJPENN.com Radio, Al Iaquinta explained why he’s so confident he could defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov in a rematch — particularly if the fight was preceded by an actual training camp this time around.
“I beat him,” he said confidently, before delving into what he’d do differently the second time around. “Not just like try to land a punch, you know? I’d go out there and I’d wrestle. I’d really just go for it more. I feel like I was a little reserved. The five rounds, I had never even really gone five rounds, trained for five rounds, so that was in the back of my head. I didn’t really want to exert myself like crazy because I had been sparring three rounds, and at the end of the three rounds I was getting pretty exhausted. It was uncharted territory. Now, five rounds is to my advantage. The longer the fight goes, the better it is for me. I think that it’ll be an advantage now rather than, being five rounds that fight [with Nurmagomedov], it was a little bit of a disadvantage.”
Al Iaquinta continued, assuring that even with a short training camp, he’s confident he has the ability to do what nobody else has done and hand Khabib Nurmagomedov a loss.
“Absolutely, especially if I had the time,” he said. “If I had even just like five weeks to prepare. But if you gave me a 10-week camp for a Khabib fight, and I had the time to prepare for him, for his style, prepare my mind,… Obviously he would be doing the same thing, but I think that I would make way more of an improvement than he would.”
While Al Iaquinta is confident in his chances in a potential Khabib Nurmagomedov rematch, his first priority is defeating Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the main event of UFC Ottawa on May 4. If he’s able to complete this mission, he’s hoping a title shot will be within reach.
In fact, if he was in charge, a win over Cowboy would absolutely earn him a rematch with Nurmagomedov.
“If I was running the show, I’d beat Cerrone, and then I’d give myself a title shot,” he said. “You told me I’m running the show, so it’s my show, you know?”
Mind you, it sounds like the UFC would be a pretty interesting place if Iaquinta was at the wheel.
“If I was running the show, I’d put [Conor] McGregor in there with Brock Lesnar,” he joked.
Do you think we’ll see a rematch between Al Iaquinta and Khabib Nurmagomedov in the future? How do you think this rematch would play out?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 4/7/2019.