Al Iaquinta believes in superstitions the way conspiracy theorists accept proven facts.
The UFC lightweight fighter from Wantagh knows full well that the result of his occupation depends largely on what he does inside the octagon rather than whether he eats Goldfish crackers immediately after weigh-ins.
"I'll break routine on purpose just because I don't want to be superstitious," Iaquinta said. "I used to wear the same cup every fight. Now I realize I train way too hard for a freaking cup to matter. I'll purposely break routine to tell myself you work too hard for any superstition or dumb stuff to affect what the outcome is."
Iaquinta used to think the other way. But he's grown up since the days of youth roller hockey. He doesn't need to step over every line on the way to the goal, nor does he need to bang both goal posts with a stick anymore to feel ready to play.
That never made a difference then, and it won't really make much of one now. Iaquinta, 27, is on a three-fight win streak, a run put together by punching, kicking, wrestling and jiujitsu-ing. He attempts a fourth straight victory this Saturday at UFC 173 in Las Vegas when he fights Mitch Clarke. Their prelim bout will air on the Fox Sports 1 portion of the fight card headlined by Renan Barao's bantamweight title defense against T.J. Dillashaw on pay-per-view. Daniel Cormier and Dan Henderson, both former Olympians, co-headline the card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
"It makes the spotlight a little bigger," Iaquinta (8-2-1, 3-1 UFC) said about fighting in Vegas.
Iaquinta's lack of superstitious activity won't stop him from continuing with a few creature comforts. Growing up, Iaquinta wrestled for Wantagh High School. Jay Iaquinta, his father and a football coach for Hewlett, turned the family's one-car garage into a wrestling room for Al.
Iaquinta plans on doing the same in the home he recently bought one town to the east in Seaford. Two differences there, though. It will be tailored a bit more toward mixed martial arts, and it's a two-car garage.
"Pretty much, I bought a garage and the house came with it," Iaquinta said. "It was perfect, I didn't even care what the house looked like."
It's a three-bedroom home, The garage is detached. Upstairs is kind of like a loft. It needs a little work. It was the first home Iaquinta looked at, but not the only one, he said.
Iaquinta said he plans to rent out rooms to local fighters and throw some bunk beds in the basement for out-of-town fighters who come to train with him at Ray Longo's and Matt Serra's gyms. He won't move in until after Saturday's fight against Clarke (10-2, 1-2), which, if he wins, will help pay down that mortgage a little quicker.
"For me it was perfect," Iaquinta said. "It's like the angels sang, the clouds parted and this house was there."