By all accounts, Al Iaquinta should be inching close to title contention in the UFC’s deepest and most talent-rich division. The New York native is on an 8-1 run since The Ultimate Fighter 15 and has proven to be an entertaining and destructive force at 155 pounds. But instead, even after punctuating his five-fight win streak with a 98-second mauling of Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 108, Iaquinta appears to remain persona non grata within UFC circles.
Iaquinta’s frustration was evident enough on Saturday night. After spending two years away from the sport due to injuries and unsuccessful contract negotiations with the UFC, Iaquinta blew the doors off Sanchez in his long-awaited return, then tweeted several variations of “f*ck you” to the UFC after it was announced that Iaquinta had once again been left off the UFC’s post-fight bonus list for an extra $50,000. Not only has Iaquinta never received a post-fight bonus over his 10-fight UFC run since TUF, but he was also banned from even getting the chance last year due a disagreement with UFC officials over an Instagram post.
The situation on Saturday just exacerbated bad feelings that were already still lingering for Iaquinta, and while the sport of mixed martial arts remains his foremost passion, Iaquinta admitted that his experience at UFC Fight Night 108 only made him more jaded with the politics of the UFC.
“If anything, I hate that even more now,” Iaquinta said Monday on The MMA Hour. “Just not winning the bonuses, I don’t know. I don’t know whether they didn’t give it to me because I didn’t deserve it, or whether they didn’t give it to me to kind of shaft me, because they said in the past that I wasn’t eligible to win bonuses and maybe they’re just sticking it to me. The whole bonus thing is just ridiculous. The fact that they’re giving $50,000 bonuses, it’s like their little way to control everybody.
“I don’t understand how everyone just thinks that’s normal,” Iaquinta added. “Fifty-thousand dollar bonus — a bonus is like a little something extra. Fifty-thousand dollars is like three times some of these guys’ pay. That’s not a bonus. That’s like life-changing stuff. And oh, it looks great. But guess what? That’s their little way to control you. You’ve got to suck up to the man. You suck up to the man, you get on the mic, you thank Joe Silva, ‘thank you guys, you guys are the best, thank you Dana White, thank you Lorenzo Fertitta,’ and those are the guys who get the bonuses. So it’s their little way. Like, ‘kiss my ass and I’ll give you a little scrap.’
“But I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t care. I took time out of my life to set myself up to where I don’t have to suck up to anybody, and I can do it my way. And if I want to fight again, I’ll fight. And if not, I’m not the guy who’s kissing up to the UFC.
“I don’t fight for the UFC,” Iaquinta continued. “I fight for myself, I fight for my team, my family. The UFC has done nothing. They’ve done nothing for me. They freakin’ left me high and dry. I had to beg them for freakin’ knee surgery.”
Iaquinta spoke extensively last year about his struggle with the UFC over his knee surgery, which ultimately kept Iaquinta sidelined for most of 2016, and his failed contract negotiations with the UFC, which led Iaquinta to withdraw from a Nov. 2016 contest against Thiago Alves at UFC 205 and turn his focus solely onto his blossoming real estate business.
And while Iaquinta returned to fight for the promotion this past weekend in Nashville, his distaste with the way the UFC has treated him was still very much on his mind.
“What I would like is to just be financially set to where, if I get hurt and I’m out for two years, I don’t have to worry about teaching private lessons to pay my mortgage,” Iaquinta said.
“Is that crazy? I’m a professional freakin’ athlete who just was on TV, FOX Sports 1 co-main event, and $50,000 is what I walk away with? Are you kidding me?
“Dana White has done a lot for this sport, but he’s not gotten one injury from this sport. And for him to say, ‘the best part of UFC Brooklyn was the flight home’ — you’re on a private jet, bro. Shut the f*ck up. You’re on a private jet. Most people, that would be the highlight of their life. Forget the night. You’re on a private jet, of course it’s the highlight of your night. Two guys are fighting in a cage, getting hurt. Jim Miller probably couldn’t [walk]. Who was the leg kicks, someone was getting their f*cking leg kicked in? [White] owes an apology to all those motherf*ckers. That’s some bullsh*t. Shut your f*cking mouth.”
Iaquinta was referring to comments made by White in the aftermath of UFC 208. In a post-fight recap uploaded by the UFC, White criticized the event and said that his favorite part was “the plane ride home.”
White’s comments were not well received by Iaquinta, who renewed his calls for the formation of a UFC fighters union. Iaquinta also said he would be happy to talk to someone within the UFC to address his grievances, but thus far had not been offered the opportunity.
“That would be nice, but I don’t think they want to hear what I have to say,” Iaquinta said. “I’d love to talk to someone. ... I have a lot of good input. A lot of the fighters have a lot of good input, but they don’t listen. No one’s asked me. No one’s asked my teammates anything. No one’s asked us. Who’s running this? Why are we just nothing?
“The fighters have to have a voice in something, even just something like the weigh-ins. The morning weigh-ins, some guys love it, some guys don’t. Like, what? It should be up to the fighters. In some way, in some capacity, there’s gotta be someone asking, ‘how do you feel? How do you feel after a morning weigh-in? How does it feel to cut weight all night and then hold your weight and weigh-in in the morning and get a certain amount of time to recover? Rehydration, these things, stuff like that. The fighters, we need to be heard. It’s gotta be our time now.
“I don’t want to be that guy, but we need to do something,” Iaquinta added. “What are we doing? This is dumb. They want the Reebok sponsorship because they want to be like the NFL, but they don’t want to be like the NFL because there’s no union, but you can’t even ask them about a union because they go right around the question. Ask Dana White about a union. He’ll come with the same answer every time. ‘Oh, well they can’t unionize because they’re independent contractors.’ Right around it. Why doesn’t he talk about it? He’s doing an interview with Megan Olivi, I guarantee they don’t talk about that. He’s done everything for the sport, now it’s time to do something for the fighters.”
Iaquinta said he had two fights remaining on his current UFC deal, although he admitted that it was “probable” fight fans won’t see him for awhile due to his issues with his employer — an unfortunate outcome for a 29-year-old fighter who may very well be one of the best in the world at 155 pounds.
But, ultimately, Iaquinta indicated that he simply can’t toe the company line when he sees what is going on around him.
“I think Dana White is the one who should be pushing (for a fighters union),” Iaquinta said. “It’s not going to be great for them, but he should be the one pushing for it.
“Their whole thing with the Reebok deal is, ‘it’s like an investment for the future.’ Alright, so invest in the future and get this union going. Help the fighters, and you know what, we could work with the Reebok deal. We could make it so that everyone is happy. But shove a piece of paper in my face, you say ‘sign this or you’re getting released,’ I want to say f*ck you. That’s not how you do things. That’s not the right way. It’s gotta be done right, and the Reebok deal could be good in some way.
“There would be a way to make me happy, to make us (happy). Are the rest of the fighters not seeing this? I don’t understand how they just take it up the ass all the time. It’s f*cking bullsh*t. It really is. For what we do, f*ck man, (Jake) Ellenberger got elbowed (on Saturday), he was unconscious for a while and I was like, ‘f*ck, I don’t even want to fight. Do I even want to do this?’ I almost left the f*cking arena, I was like f*ck this. And [White] is going to say that ‘the best part is the ride home.’ Shut the f*ck up. Are you kidding me? Go f*ck yourself. Don’t ever talk about a fighter like that. You’re not a fighter. You don’t do it. You don’t know. All those guys.”