Dana White declares Al Iaquinta eligible for lightweight title at UFC 223 – sort of

The New York State Athletic Commission doesn’t consider Saturday’s UFC 223 headliner an official lightweight title bout. But UFC President Dana White is calling it one anyway.

White today told reporters that Al Iaquinta (13-3-1 MMA, 8-2 UFC) will be eligible to fight for the undisputed title on Saturday against Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) , despite announcements to the contrary earlier today.

“The title is on the line,” White said during a press conference assembled for the new UFC 223 headliners. “As far as the commission goes, Khabib is the one that’s eligible for the title. But obviously, if ‘Ragin’ Al wins this fight, he’s the champ.

“If you beat the man, you are the man.”

White contradicted himself early in the press conference when he claimed the NYSAC took the extraordinary step of weighing Iaquinta’s boxers to certify him as 155 pounds.

But pressed on the commission’s official stance on the fight, White conceded that Iaquinta’s official weight is 155.2, making him ineligible to win the title under the NYSAC’s statutes.

Asked to clarify the promotion’s official position on the fight, White said, “We, as the fans and as fight fans and as the people know who the champ is, if you win the fight. … If you win the fight, you’re the champ. To be the man, you beat the man. If you beat the man, it’s hard to deny that he’s champion. All technicalities, we will figure out after the fight.”

Iaquinta got his lottery ticket opportunity today after the NYSAC deemed featherweight champ Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) medically unfit to face Nurmagomedov.

White said the promotion “jumped the gun” on recruiting ex-champ Anthony Pettis (20-7 MMA, 7-6 UFC) to replace Holloway; Pettis reportedly wanted more money to take a fight with Nurmagomedov and was taken out of consideration.

Iaquinta and Paul Felder (15-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) loudly volunteered for the opportunity, White said, but Iaquinta had a number next to his name.

The news was still sinking in for “Raging” Al.

“I still don’t know what the hell is going on right now,” Iaquinta said at the presser. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime right here. Thank you, Khabib, for staying in the fight, and this is the opportunity I’m looking for: Stay ready, seize the moment, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

For more on UFC 223, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

NO COMMENTS