Morning traffic on the Southern State. All-day traffic on the Belt Parkway. That $11.52 toll on the Verrazano Bridge. Sounds like a grand ol’ time in the life of a Long Islander driving into Staten Island.
But for Wantagh’s Al Iaquinta, the drive to train at NY Sports Science Lab is his time to dream about what he can do and become in mixed martial arts.
“Going over the bridge, the Verrazano, it’s inspiring to me,” Iaquinta said. “I visualize the fight a million times, visualize the worst possible scenario where I’m getting my ass kicked and I have to just dig down deep and get the win. And I also visualize it easy where I just go out there and throw one punch and it’s over.”
It also is his time to embrace his two distinctly different worlds. On the drive, there are phone calls to be made. Trainers. Doctors. Sparring partners. Buyers. Sellers. Brokers. Agents.
See, Iaquinta isn’t the typical MMA athlete clad in fight shorts and T-shirts (although he owns his share of them) looking to plunk someone in the grill with his fist (although he’ll gladly do that for a proper fee). There are collared shirts and sportcoats to wear and properties to sell and rent. In addition to being a top-ranked lightweight fighter in the UFC, Iaquinta also works a real estate agent.
“To be ranked No. 10 in the world, in anything, you know how to get good at whatever you do,” Iaquinta said. “If I put that work ethic toward whatever I’m doing, if it’s real estate, I know I’ll be successful.”
Which one is his side gig depends on the time of year. In the week ahead, he’ll be all fighter as he prepares to face Paul Felder at UFC 223 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Saturday, April 7. Iaquinta (13-3-1) has won five in a row, including four by knockout. Felder (15-3) has won his last three bouts all by knockout. The lightweight bout is scheduled to open the UFC 223 main card on pay-per-view.
“Al’s a fighter, he’s a gamer, man,” trainer Ray Longo said. “You see, he goes for it. He’s only got one speed and he’s very very good at what he does. If he steps in the octagon, he’s not letting anything hold him back.”
Iaquinta first started thinking about his post-fighting future a few years ago while feuding with the UFC over his injured knee. He has been one of the more outspoken fighters on the UFC’s roster about the pay structure and has never shied away from critical comments.
That bravado helped land him a bigger payday for this fight than his original contract called for. It also helped gain him a few extra fans and followers. Who doesn’t want to be able to sound off publicly on their boss without losing their job?
That’s that life.
In his other life, Iaquinta moves with a little more chill. But that professional athlete’s work ethic, for years honed on the mats and in the cage, follows him to his desk or phone or open house.
“He doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s just relentless,” said Rich Raspantini, Iaquinta’s advisor and the owner of HomeSmart Premier Living Realty. “It’s a professional athlete, their mentality is completely different. From the minute he walked in here, you just saw, it’s a focus that he has. When he puts his mind to it and says I need to do this, he just does it.”
Iaquinta doesn’t trade too much on his name in real estate quite yet. But, the two worlds do intersect at times.
“They find out I’m ‘Raging Al,’ and they give themselves a nickname,” Iaquinta said. “There’s ‘Mad Monte.’ I sold Mad Monte’s condo in Freeport and then he bought a house in West Islip. And then there’s ‘Punishing Paul.’ ‘Punishing Paul’ is selling his $1.4 million Vermont-style chalet in Huntington.”