Al Iaquinta punches Kevin Lee at UFC Milwaukee

UFC lightweight contender Al Iaquinta believes it’s an exciting time for the division now that things are finally moving.

With both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor suspended following their title fight last October, arguably the most exciting division in the UFC was held up once again.

But with Dustin Poirier defeating Max Holloway at UFC 236 to become the new interim lightweight champion, there is finally some movement with Nurmagomedov now expected to defend his title in September.

“It’s an exciting time,” Iaquinta told Submission Radio. “The division was a little crazy and now I guess, it’s kind of getting some structure. It’s exciting and I’m enjoying seeing what’s going on above me.”

Wrestling, the X-factor

Iaquinta knows what it’s like to face Nurmagomedov, so while Poirier believes he’s the one who will inflict the Dagestan native’s first defeat, “Ragin’ Al” believes the former’s wrestling is too much of an X-factor.

“Never say never but I would think Khabib with the wrestling, that’s a huge X-factor,” Iaquinta explained. “That’s something Max didn’t really have. Even when you’re just worried about the wrestling, that opens up Khabib’s striking.

“His striking is good, he’s got a unique style, he knocked Conor down. You would never think that would happen but it was really set up all because of his wrestling. He’s got a couple of different layers to his game and that’s a huge problem to deal with.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Al Iaquinta touch gloves before their bout at UFC 223
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Al Iaquinta touch gloves before their bout at UFC 223 (UFC/Getty Images)

Rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov

Iaquinta faces Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the main event of UFC Ottawa next month. Should he and Nurmagomedov both win, Iaquinta is hoping to get another crack at “The Eagle” — this time, with a full camp rather than a day’s notice.

“Now I know I’m ready,” Iaquinta added. “I don’t make the same mistake twice, never. I think that things would be a lot different even if I did get to fight on a day’s notice, it’d be way different.”

“I wasn’t really training for a wrestler [at UFC 223]. I think my wrestling is up there, especially with my timing with the takedowns. There was a few times where I even got in on Khabib and I didn’t follow through. It’s only going to take a few more changes to really make that fight a big difference. The one thing will definitely be the confidence in my cardio to go five rounds because now that would be an advantage.”

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