Justin Gaethje will be facing a top lightweight in the main event of UFC Lincoln, but it won’t be Al Iaquinta.
Following an ESPN report that Iaquinta had chosen to withdraw from his headlining bout opposite Gaethje at a UFC card scheduled for the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., on Aug. 25, the promotion officially announced that James Vick will step in for Iaquinta to fight Gaethje.
Vick was originally scheduled to fight Paul Felder at UFC Boise on July 14. It is unknown if a new opponent will be found for Felder to keep him on that event.
On Wednesday, Iaquinta made it clear that he would not be fighting Gaethje and he criticized the former World Series of Fighting champion’s career choices.
Def not happening— Al Iaquinta (@ALIAQUINTA) June 27, 2018
You’re the bitch you’ll fight anyone for anything. Brain dead and broke in 2 years— Al Iaquinta (@ALIAQUINTA) June 28, 2018
They all backed out not me— Al Iaquinta (@ALIAQUINTA) June 28, 2018
“Ragin’ Al” was last seen fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 223. The opportunity came about on extraordinarily short notice after originally scheduled headliner Tony Ferguson suffered an injury (featherweight champion Max Holloway attempted to take the bout as well, but the late notice left him unable to make weight safely and he was subsequently removed as well).
On the day of the weigh-ins for the event, Iaquinta was pulled from a bout with Felder to take Ferguson’s place. He would go on to lose to Nurmagomedov by unanimous decision.
For Vick (13-1), Gaethje represents the top-10 opponent he has long been hunting for. “The Texecutioner” is on a four-fight winning streak and he has gone 9-1 since joining the UFC in 2013. In his last fight, he defeated Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision at UFC Austin.
Gaethje has been finished by Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez in his last two fights, though all three of his UFC performances thus far have been awarded with a Fight of the Night bonus. Prior to suffering back-to-back losses, Gaethje had won his first 18 professional contests with all but three coming by way of knockout.