One on One with UFC’s “Ragin'” Al Iaquinta
A man with duel roles as fighter and real estate agent, Long Island’s Al Iaquinta gives his thoughts on a variety of topics. Who do you think he should fight next?
Double G Sports had the privilege of interviewing one of the hottest and most controversial fighters in the UFC, ‘Ragin’ Al Iaquinta. The Wantagh, NY native is currently ranked the #9 lightweight in the world, and most recently fought for the UFC Lightweight title against Khabib Nurmagomedov after a flurry of events that culminated in Conor McGregor getting arrested and Tony Ferguson pulling out of the fight after tripping over a wire and tearing his ACL. We caught up with Al and asked him everything under the sun.
What’s up Al, hope all is well man. So tell me because I don’t think many people know this: How did you get started with MMA? Did you know someone from your wrestling background?
Yeah, somewhat bro. So I was obviously a wrestler in high school and wrestled at Nassau. One of the guys on my team, Marcel Robinson, started getting into it so I went to join him one day. I always wanted to do MMA but I never knew how to get into it. So I went thinking I was gonna kick everyone’s ass and I got my ass handed to me. I was able to take people down but I kept getting choked out. I really only knew wrestling. It was really humbling because I really thought I was going to go in there and kick ass. It’s crazy because nowadays all these kids train specifically for MMA. Back in the day it was either you were a wrestler or a kickboxer or something like that and you got humbled because you didn’t know all of disciplines.
When was your first fight and how did you feel going into it?
It’s actually a funny story. So I started getting pretty good at MMA, really working on my craft, and I had my first fight in I think June 2007. Yeah it was June 2007 in New Jersey and I knew I had gotten good but I see this guy I’m facing. He’s a big dude with a mohawk and bro his legs were humongous. I was maybe 18 or 19 at the time and this dude was in his mid 30’s. Anyway, we get into it and I just keep taking him down. I couldn’t finish him because I wasn’t too good with submissions yet but I won by decision. I felt pretty good after that and it goes to show that sometimes you can’t always go by what people look like.
Tell me more about some of your unique training. You do a lot more hand-eye coordination work than most other fighters.
Yeah man, so my dad actually knew about this a while ago. He was a football coach at Hewlett and now he’s at Manhasset. He knew about this place in Staten Island called Science Sports Lab that had some of these machines. So we started using them and it’s been great. I think I got my first one about five years ago and it’s a great machine. It’s called a Dynavision. You know most people just work on their strength and conditioning here and there, but your eyes are muscles too. Using this stuff trains your eyes and makes your reaction time much faster to everything. It’s very useful for fighting. The whole point of using it is to get an edge, to get some kind of advantage over your competition.
Sneaking your way into the main event versus Khabib at UFC 223 must have been a whirlwind. How did you wind up in the main event after all the commotion?
Yeah man, it was crazy. It was probably the craziest day of my life bro. It was a whirlwind. I was supposed to fight an unranked guy (Paul Felder) and then Tony got hurt. As soon as Tony got hurt and was out I called my manager and I told him to tell the matchmaker, “Yo, I’m game I’m ready to fight Khabib.” They tried to get Max Holloway to come from Hawaii. When they flew him in he tried to weigh in. He’s a big dude just walking around and a really big guy for 145 so I saw he wasn’t going to make it. I guess they must have scratched that idea because he couldn’t make weight. I remember it vividly, I went right into the lobby after I saw there wasn’t an opponent and started yelling to the matchmaker (Sean Shelby) to put me in the match because I’m ready. A couple of hours later I got a call and I knew it was good news. I found out I was fighting Khabib and it was wild bro. The weigh-ins were a blur, and it was awesome because everyone from Wantagh came to see it.
You also have a career as a real estate agent. How did that come about?
It was actually when I was going to buy my first house. So I bought my house maybe 5ish years ago and my broker was a Wantagh native’s mom, Mrs. St. John, and she was just the perfect broker. She was so friendly, answered all my questions, and she made me want to help people out myself. I also wanted to know more about real estate because I wanted to help people out but didn’t really know how, and I love looking up everything about a house, going on google and searching all the different homes and stuff. I got my license a while back and when I first went into it I thought I was going to kill it there also. That was really humbling because like MMA I sucked at it at first and needed to get better. I wound up switching brokers a little while back and I’ve been doing really well lately. I’m actually on my way to sell a house in Farmingville right now. It’s been great bro, I get to help people out and I really enjoy what I’m doing.
Where do you stand with the UFC and what would be your next fight if you do fight again?
Yeah man I would fight again. I’m actually looking to get back in around November. I know there’s a UFC card at MSG coming up around then and I would love to fight there. I know there’s another fight in December I think in Vegas that I would love to be on. I would obviously love another fight with Kevin Lee. I don’t know if he’s gonna make weight anymore because he’s out there fighting at like 159, but if they allow him to stay at 155 and not go to 170 I would love that fight. There are a lot of good fights I could take. A guy like Anthony Pettis would be a great fight too. I’m excited man, I’m looking forward to fighting again.
Are you ever going on the Joe Rogan podcast?
(Laughs) Yeah bro, I would love to do that. I don’t know I haven’t talked to him about it or been in contact with him. I think it would be great to do something like that.