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Al Iaquinta vs. Conor McGregor? LIer wants to fight a top lightweight, then rematch Khabib Nurmagomedov

Al Iaquinta, left, faced Khabib Nurmagomedov for the

Al Iaquinta, left, faced Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title at UFC 223 in Brooklyn's Barclays Center on April 7, 2018. Credit: Mario Gonzalez

Al Iaquinta made it clear Saturday who he wants to fight next.

“Anybody ranked above me,” the Wantagh-raised Iaquinta said at UFC Brooklyn on Saturday.

That list in the lightweight division behind champion Khabib Nurmagomedov looks like this at the moment: 1) Tony Ferguson; 2) Conor McGregor and 3) Dustin Poirier.

Of course, everyone wants to face McGregor. That’s the “money fight,” the one most assured to deliver a big payday, the biggest audience and the most publicity. That McGregor has one MMA fight since winning the lightweight title on Nov. 12, 2016, and remains the biggest star in the sport provides a certain understanding into the types of numbers he delivers on all verticals for the people involved.

“A win over either of those guys will get me that rematch against Khabib, which is something I want to do this year,” Iaquinta said. “Have a full training camp, really be prepared, and I know that’s a fight that would be a lot different the second time around.”

Iaquinta (14-4-1) faced Nurmagomedov in April 2018 for the lightweight title after a wild confluence of events that, naturally, McGregor triggered (and he wasn’t even fighting that weekend!) involving bus attacks, court hearings, injured fighters and a title challenger being stopped by the New York State Athletic Commission from trying to cut any more weight. Iaquinta had roughly 30 hours to prepare to face the undefeated Russian mauler that is Nurmagomedov in a five-round bout rather than an unranked striker from Philadelphia in Paul Felder.

Iaquinta lost that night to Nurmagomedov, who won the vacant lightweight title then defended it by submitting McGregor last October.

“That’s the fight I think that should be made and the winner of that gets a rematch,” Iaquinta said of a potential bout with McGregor. “I think him getting a rematch off the bat is just, you know, money talks, but let’s get serious. Nothing he did that night warrants a rematch.”

McGregor and Nurmagomedov still both have to go in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission for a hearing on their post-fight melee at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Both fighters remain under suspension in Nevada.

The lead-up to a McGregor-Iaquinta bout would be interesting. McGregor is the best on the microphone when it comes to promoting a bout and ripping his opponents. The man does his homework, for sure. “Raging” Al Iaquinta hardly takes a step back to anyone and could use those media opportunities to build his profile.

“His skills are great,” Iaquinta said. “Mental warfare, leading up to the fight, he’s the best at it right now. And then he goes in there and he’s dangerous. He’s a great bully. He walks across the cage and just gets right after it. But, a little bit further down the line, a little bit of resistance, you can see the change on the looks of his face. You can see it the moment that the momentum switches in a Conor McGregor fight.”

New York Sports