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NYSAC executive director Kim Sumbler explains why Al Iaquinta couldn’t be champion if he wins at UFC 223

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

NEW YORK CITY — If Al Iaquinta pulls off the impossible at UFC 223, he won’t officially become the UFC lightweight champion.

Iaquinta is fighting unbeaten lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 223 event in Brooklyn, N.Y. Nurmagomedov was originally scheduled to fight for the UFC lightweight belt against Tony Ferguson, but after a series of injuries and other unfortunate circumstances, Iaquinta was given the the opportunity to fight Nurmagomedov in the headlining slot.

At the official weigh-is held on Friday morning, Iaquinta weighed in at 155.2 pounds — 0.2 pounds over the limit required to compete in championship fights. His weight wasn’t an issue then, since at that time he was scheduled to face Paul Felder. There is a one-pound allowance for non-championship fights.

Despite being overweight for a title fight, UFC president Dana White announced hours later at a UFC press conference that if victorious at UFC 223, Iaquinta would be “the champ.”

But according to the New York State Athletic Commission, Iaquinta can’t become the champion if victorious.

“Al Iaquinta was presented to me and we did everything we could to put that together with the UFC and we agreed to a five-round fight against Khabib,” NYSAC executive director Kim Sumbler told MMA Fighting. “Khabib gets to fight for the title and Al doesn’t. It was over the time limit for him to weigh-in a second time and he had already rehydrated, so there was no way, it wasn’t a possibility.”

White said that Iaquinta’s underwear, which he wore on the scale, was weighed following the official weigh-ins and that it summed up the amount that Iaquinta needed to be eligible to compete in championship fights: 0.2 pounds. But even with that, the NYSAC can’t allow Iaquinta to compete for the UFC lightweight belt.

“I think that the UFC was hoping that we could do that, but unfortunately, the rules and regulations are written and we’re not allow to weigh articles of clothing, we have to weigh the opponent himself,” Sumbler explained. “Unfortunately, it’s not a simple matter where we can subtract an article of clothing from what he weighed in as, so his official weight was recorded at 155.2 and that’s what we have to stick with.”

Sumbler said that the UFC is aware of Iaquinta’s eligibility to compete for a belt. She also added that the UFC weighed Iaquinta’s underwear and not the commission.

“That was done on the UFC side,” Sumbler said. “They asked me if they could show me, they asked me if I could come and weigh it. And when we discussed it, I read through my regulations to see if there was any weight that was possible for us, and it wasn’t according to our regs. So I had that discussion with UFC management and I said there is nothing I can do here. We can’t weigh the article, we have to weigh the person, so there was no way we can put it together.”

Sumbler believes that White’s comments at the UFC 25th anniversary press conference were taken out of context, as Iaquinta can’t be officially recorded as the UFC lightweight champion, even if victorious.

“I think what Dana said was taken a little out of context and if you listen to what he said, ‘if you beat Khabib, you’re the champ, you’re the man,’ I think rationally you can say that to anyone, and hey, if Al does beat Khabib he’s going to be looked at as the champ and that’s OK,” Sumbler said. “That’s cool, but unfortunately he’s not recorded officially as the 155-pound title holder, that’s the difference. And I think it was taken a little out of text that Dana was saying, ‘We don’t care what New York says.’ I don’t believe that’s what Dana intended.”

But what happens if Iaquinta does beat Nurmagomedov and the UFC decides promotes the New Yorker to UFC lightweight champion, despite the commission’s rules?

Sumbler says they’ll have that discussion once it happens.

“I can’t record him (Iaquinta as champion), he’s not officially recorded. I think that’s a bridge that we will have to cross when we come to it. But that’s probably going to be a commission-to-commission discussion about how we deal with that type of situation.”