Former MMA fighter Al Iaquinta has opened a real estate...

Former MMA fighter Al Iaquinta has opened a real estate brokerage in Wantagh. Credit: Newsday/Jonathan LaMantia

As Long Island buyers fight over too few houses on the market, some locals might soon be looking to add professional muscle to their side.   

Retired mixed martial arts fighter Al Iaquinta, 36, held a grand opening this month for his real estate brokerage in Wantagh, stepping out on his own after about seven years as an agent at HomeSmart Premier Living Realty in Williston Park. 

Iaquinta rose as high as No. 4 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight rankings, going 14-7-1, including seven knockouts, during his nearly 13-year professional career.

In 2018, he stepped in as a replacement on one day's notice to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov, regarded as one of the sport's greatest fighters, in the Octagon, the UFC equivalent of the boxing ring. He lost the bout at Barclays Center in five rounds by unanimous decision but won praise for his tenacity from UFC officials, his trainer Ray Longo and Nurmagomedov, who became the lightweight champion and defended the title three times until his retirement in 2020.

Opening his own brokerage will put Iaquinta in competition with some of Nassau County’s largest brokerages, including Keller Williams, Douglas Elliman and Charles Rutenberg Realty, which have hundreds of agents. Iaquinta worked with either the buyer or seller on 15 deals since 2022, primarily on Nassau’s South Shore but also in Suffolk and Queens. He'll be working to build upon his brand as a fighter, which has helped him get more than 120,000 followers each on Instagram and Twitter.

“It’s an uphill battle breaking in, but there’s nobody that’s going to outwork me,” Iaquinta said. Shifting into trash-talk mode, he added: “If I can get into an Octagon and fight somebody, Douglas Elliman ain’t got nothing on me. Douglas Elliman, Keller Williams — line them up. Bring it on.”

Large brokerages support agents with spending on technology, marketing and training — investments Iaquinta will have to make himself to compete for listings. The local housing market has also slowed down this year. There were 37% fewer closed sales in April in Nassau than during that month a year ago, as higher mortgage rates and fewer listings have hurt sales.

Kevin Leatherman, who started the Rockville Centre brokerage Leatherman Homes in 1996, was in a similar position to Iaquinta's nearly 30 years ago. He said working independently has allowed him to make business decisions quickly and without interference.

But brokers like Iaquinta who go out on their own should be prepared for the greater demands of working as a broker-owner. There are new expenses for rent, insurance and staff as well as the constant need to stay current on market trends and fair housing laws, Leatherman said. He also was surprised Iaquinta had opted to open a brick-and-mortar office. “The nature of this business is there’s very few walk-ins,” he said. 

Iaquinta, nicknamed "Raging" Al in the UFC, started in real estate in 2015 while he was recovering from a serious knee surgery that kept him out of competition for two years. He became interested in the industry after buying a house in Seaford in 2014 and took classes at the New York Real Estate Institute in Syosset before getting his license. He retired after a loss in November 2021 at Madison Square Garden.

“I kind of saw the writing on the wall that fighting can’t last forever, and for me, it might end a little sooner than it’s supposed to, so I dove headfirst into real estate,” said Iaquintawho lives in Merrick. 

Al Iaquinta, right, punches Donald Cerrone in their lightweight bout...

Al Iaquinta, right, punches Donald Cerrone in their lightweight bout during a 2019 UFC Fight Night event in Canada. Credit: Getty Images/Zuffa LLC/Jeff Bottari

He started at HomeSmart in 2016, balancing his fledgling real estate career with an eventual return to the Octagon, an April 2017 knockout of Diego Sanchez.

“I’d be answering calls on the way to training and setting up appointments waiting for physical therapy,” Iaquinta recalled. “In fighting, I was one of the top guys in the world but to start something new in sales intrigued me … I was definitely in over my head, but that’s kind of how I like to do things. Here, I’m opening the office, and a lot of people might think it’s crazy, but that’s what it’s all about … Setting goals and attacking them.”

Debi Lucas, a real estate agent and team leader at Compass, worked with Iaquinta at HomeSmart during his MMA career, providing advice, co-listing properties with him and showing buyers houses while he was traveling to compete.

Lucas, who attended Iaquinta's 2018 fight in Brooklyn, said she could see the connection between his approach to fighting and real estate.

“Al’s a very competitive guy, whether he’s in the Octagon or selling houses,” Lucas said. “He’s laser-focused whether he’s door knocking or making cold calls on the phone. He can't be deterred."  

Iaquinta will need that persistence in the current market, with some of his recent clients losing bidding wars to others offering tens of thousands above asking prices. He recommends potential buyers get pre-approved for a mortgage to start their search, so they can move quickly when they find a house they like.

“It’s definitely a fight out there,” he said.

Iaquinta's stats:

In the Octagon

Career record: 14-7-1

Highest rank: No. 4 lightweight

Team: Long Island-based Serra-Longo Fight Team

In the market

Sales: Represented buyer or seller in 15 deals since 2022

Largest sale: Represented buyer in $1.25 million sale in Massapequa last year

Team: Iaquinta Real Estate in Wantagh

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