Al Iaquinta has stepped up on about a days notice to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight title in the main event of UFC 223.
The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) says that only Nurmagomedov is eligible to win the gold, but UFC President Dana White says otherwise.
“The title is on the line,” White said during an impromptu UFC 223 press conference. “As far as the commission goes, Khabib is the one that’s eligible for the title. But obviously, if ‘Ragin’ Al wins this fight, he’s the champ. If you beat the man, you are the man.”
If Iaquinta does beat Nurmagomedov to win the title, it may be a hollow win if the various athletic commissions do not recognize the New York native as a true champion.
That may not matter to the UFC President in the long run because he says the fans will know who the real champion is.
“We, as the fans and as fight fans and as the people know who the champ is, if you win the fight. … If you win the fight, you’re the champ. To be the man, you beat the man. If you beat the man, it’s hard to deny that he’s champion. All technicalities, we will figure out after the fight,” says White.
UFC 223 takes place tonight from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Al Iaquinta headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.