Al Iaquinta might not actually get a gold belt placed around his waist should he pull off the unfathomable upset against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 on Saturday, but according to Dana White, he’ll still be considered the champion at 155 pounds.
White spoke about the new UFC 223 main event at a press conference Friday evening at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The UFC president said that the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) won’t officially recognize Nurmagomedov vs. Iaquinta as a lightweight title fight for Iaquinta, because he weighed in Friday morning at 155.2 pounds. But because he tipped the scales with underwear on, which apparently weighed .2 pounds, the UFC will consider Iaquinta the lightweight king if he wins.
“If you look at where Al was ranked, and his last five fights, he made the most sense,” White said of why Iaquinta is ultimately the one facing Nurmagomedov. “The problem with Al was he was 155.2 (pounds). That was with his underwear on. The commission literally weighed his underwear, and they were .2 (pounds), so he made weight.
“The title is on the line. As far as the commission goes, Khabib is the one who is 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 implied that whether or not Iaquinta will actually be the official lightweight champ should he beat Nurmagomedov will have to be a wait-and-see situation.
“We as the fans and as the people know who the champ is if you win the fight. If you win the fight, you’re the champ,” White said. “To be the man, you beat the man, and if you beat the man, it’s hard to deny that he’s not the champion. All technicalities we will figure out after the fight.
“Per the New York State Athletic Commission, this is not a title fight for him. It’s an actual regulation that a guy who doesn’t make exactly on weight cannot be the champion. So we’ll see. Obviously, if he wins this fight, we’ll figure that out.”
Iaquinta was promoted to the UFC 223 pay-per-view main event on Friday afternoon. On Friday morning, during the official weigh-ins, headliner Max Holloway was pulled from the lightweight title fight opposite Nurmagomedov due to concerns from the NYSAC surrounding his weight cut.
Holloway stepped up on short notice to face “The Eagle” himself. Last weekend, it was announced that original headliner, Tony Ferguson, injured his knee and was out of the long-awaited contest with Nurmagomedov. Holloway, the UFC featherweight champion, took his place six days out, moving up a weight class.
Iaquinta was initially scheduled to face Paul Felder in the main card opener. Felder was removed from the lineup.
UFC 223 takes place at Barclays Center on Saturday.