Al Iaquinta isn't backing down from the commotion of this past weekend. Iaquinta scored perhaps the biggest win of his career on Saturday, gritting out a split decision over highly-respected veteran Jorge Masvidal after stumbling early in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 63. The fans in attendance in Fairfax didn't exactly agree with the decision, but after re-watching the fight several times, Iaquinta stands by the outcome.
"I do, I think I won the rounds," Iaquinta said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I think the second round, third round, he took off. He wasn't fighting, and I was pushing forward. Even the first four minutes of the first round, I think I came after him. I pushed the pace. The last minute of that first round, he beat my ass, I'm not going to lie. But that's what I'm made of.
"The second and third round, I came to fight. I think he was fighting like he wanted a paycheck, and that was the difference in the fight."
The crowd in attendance at Virginia's Patriot Center booed Iaquinta lustily after the decision was read, prompting the New Yorker to rip off a memorable expletive-laden rant before storming out of the cage. Masvidal, too, appeared disgusted by the decision, departing without conducting a post-fight interview.
The fight itself was closely contested. Masvidal put Iaquinta on wobbly legs with a salvo to close the opening round, but then failed to capitalize, electing instead to back up and counter throughout the second and third frame. And while Masvidal out-landed Iaquinta in each round, including a 86-55 edge in total strikes, Iaquinta led the dance for the latter stanzas while tenderizing Masvidal's lead leg, which seemed to sway the judges.
"One-hundred percent, stats do not tell the whole story," Iaquinta said. "They said I was 0-for-8 in takedowns. 0-for-8. Do you remember me trying to take him down eight times? I wasn't shooting, like, Ben Askren takedowns, where it's like my life depends on it and I'm shooting and I'm really getting him to the ground. I'm grabbing his leg, and if he's in good position, I'm throwing punches out of it. I'm not trying to take him down like I need to take him down.
"He's landing a punch going backwards and it's just touching me on my head," Iaquinta continued. "I'm slamming leg kicks. What does that count for? There's just so many different ways you can score a fight like that. It could've went either way depending on who you ask. There were a lot of respectable fighters who tweeted that I won that fight, and that's what I take most of anything -- people who know about fighting, people who know in the second and third round when things get tough, what it's like to just keep coming forward and really want it and not shy away from a battle."
Thirteen of the 15 documented media scores on MMADecisions.com scored the fight for Masvidal, but the Virginia judges ultimately saw things differently. Dave Tirelli and Cardo Urso both had it 29-28, with Iaquinta winning the final two rounds, while Doug Crosby was the lone dissenter, scoring it a 30-27 clean sweep for Masvidal.
Regardless of how things played out though, Crosby's involvement in the fight is baffling in retrospect, considering his long-standing and relatively acrimonious history with the Serra-Longo Fight Team. Iaquinta's head coach, Ray Longo, told Ariel Helwani on Monday that Crosby has had "inappropriate relationships" with several fighters connected to the gym, including an incident with an unnamed woman which led to her securing a "court order of protection" against Crosby which she held for almost three years and was enforced by two judges.
A part-time official who moonlights as a stunt coordinator in the film industry, Crosby was also recently rebuffed by Iaquinta after seeking the fighter's services for a project. That obvious conflict of interest alone prompted Iaquinta to call it a "travesty" that Crosby was nonetheless assigned to judge his fight.
"It's been documented, Doug Crosby has a long-going feud with -- well, not a feud, but whatever, he hates on us, most particularly Ray Longo," Iaquinta said. "He's got a problem, and this is where it gets serious. The whole thing, MMA, this whole thing is kind of like a joke. Everyone thinks, oh, boo, I cursed them, it's funny. But this is where it gets serious.
"I turned down an offer from this guy, whatever the reason being, and then he's judging my fight. So right there, I don't know, it's just not right. I don't know how that happened. After the fight, I was looking around the cage and I then I saw him sitting down and I said to Ray, ‘Why is this guy judging my fight?' I knew right away, I'm down one judge. I'm down. Three judges are supposed to be objective, see the fight how it is. I knew right off the bat, this guy wasn't giving me nothing."
All things aside, Iaquinta's blow-up at the Virginia crowd became one of the enduring images of the weekend, and may have endeared even more fans to Iaquinta than the New Yorker would've gotten by playing it straight.
Iaquinta said the entire incident was provoked by two particularly rowdy fans flipping him the bird from the front row, and as fate would have it, those very same fans called into The MMA Hour and admitted they were now fans of Iaquinta because of the realness with which he handled a tough situation.
"I think if it went down the same way, I'd do the same thing," Iaquinta said looking back. "You don't boo me. I freakin', I'm the reason you're there watching. I put it out there on the line. I got this scar on my face. After I fought, and it was a good fight, Matt (Serra) said to me, ‘You've got a new scar on your face.' I got a scar from this. This ain't a joke. This is real. And then people start booing me? What, every time I look at this scar I'm going to say, ‘Oh, that was the time, remember the time when people booed me?' So now every time I look at the scar, it's the time I cursed out Virginia and told them to go f**k themselves, so it's a little better, you know?"