Native New Yorker, Al Iaquinta has become the latest in a long line of UFC fighters willing to go the extra mile to get a better payday. The 29-year-old lightweight contender made headlines yesterday when he revealed that he’d pulled out of his UFC 205 bout with Thiago Alves over a contract dispute.
In a recent MMA Hour interview, the veteran of nine UFC bouts told Ariel Helwani about his medical “nightmare,” revealing that there was a time when he felt his career might actually be over. After sustaining a serious knee injury, Iaquinta said that UFC physicians insisted on a lengthy protocol of stem cell injections rather than an osteochondral allograft. Six months into the stem cell injections, the injury showed no improvement, so he campaigned for the surgery once again.
The Number 13 lightweight contender said the promotion initially only offered to cover $15,000 of the procedure, which, according to him, cost upwards of $60,000, not including post-surgical rehab costs. The UFC ended up covering the full extent of the bill, but another financial burden had settled in.
After the dust from the Reebok deal had started to settle, Iaquinta’s sponsors dried up, making an extended layoff extraordinarily hard on his bank account. He was forced to find a full-time job as a real estate agent to stay afloat financially.
“That just changed my outlook on everything,” Iaquinta said. “God forbid, I take this fight, $26,000, I win, I lose, whatever happens. Say I get hurt somehow, I got nothing. I’d have to take off time from my clients, I’d have to take off time with the real estate that I’m learning. I kind of got myself in a groove. To stop that, to take a fight where I could be risking everything, it’s just not worth it for the amount of money that they’re going to pay me.
“It would be great to say that I fought at Madison Square Garden, but after a while, you’re just saying that. There’s nothing to show for it. And that’s basically why I took the stance that I took, and it’s a tough one because there’s nothing I’d love to do more than fight at Madison Square Garden. But I feel like, to not even have a negotiation, and the things I heard (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva say to my manager about me when he asked just to negotiate, ‘eff him, eff this’ — who is he to put a price tag on what my life is worth, on what my knee is worth? I’ve had two knee surgeries already. I may have to have to have another one after nine more fights.
“Am I going to be able to walk? Am I going to be able to live and enjoy life? And for him to say, ‘eff you, eff this, I’ll cut him. Is he retired?’ … Maybe we don’t see eye-to-eye, and maybe I’m not worth what I am, but for you to say, ‘eff this, eff that’ — you’ve never stepped in the cage. You don’t know what my body feels like after a fight, what my body will feel like down the line. So for a company like the UFC to talk to me like that, to talk about me like that, it just doesn’t sit right with me. I think it could’ve been resolved a whole different way. I think we could’ve gone about it a whole different way. I don’t know. It’s just frustrating.”
There was quite a bit more in this 28-minute interview. You can check it out in its entirety via the video above.
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