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Al Iaquinta: Francis Ngannou ‘should be going nuts right now’

Veteran UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta applauds heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou for seeking a better deal from his promoter.

“Good for Francis,” he said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “Guy stuck to his guns. Francis is the guy that should be going nuts right now.”

Iaquinta can relate, though he’s mellowed over the years. The Long Island native infamously cursed out a crowd for booing him, battled with the UFC publicly over pay, and even joined a nascent unionization effort. He is not known to remain silent when he feels mistreated.

Lately, Iaquinta would rather not make so many waves. He’s dealing with longstanding injuries that have threatened to end his career, sending him all the way to Medellin, Colombia for stem cell treatment he hopes will heal a partially torn ACL suffered in his previous fight, a knockout loss to Bobby Green at UFC 268.

Still, a shade of the old Al resurfaces when he talks about the belt snub Ngannou endured from UFC President Dana White, who claimed a backstage incident at UFC 270 prevented him from putting the belt on the champ, but the veteran UFC lightweight didn’t necessarily question the official narrative.

“What the hell was going on in the back!” Iaquinta said. “What was going on? Who was in the back? We’ve gotta find out. I want to know what happened in the back. I need to know. That must have been something crazy going on back there. It must have been a fight. Someone else must have fought back there. ... Something must have happened. We’ve got to find out what happened.”

Of the idea that White was simply acting out because he wanted Ngannou to lose, Iaquinta deadpanned, “Naw, it couldn’t be that.”

Iaquinta chuckled about the UFC’s struggles with talent as of late and the heat on White courtesy of YouTube influencer turned boxer Jake Paul. It’s more entertainment than anything. Work outside the cage is keeping him occupied, whether it’s his ongoing treatment, work in real estate, or helping out teammates in the gym.

Two months ago, Iaquinta strongly indicated he would retire from fighting, saying the energy he put into training and competing wasn’t worth the result. But he’s no longer as adamant about his future.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s so tempting. It’s so hard to say that’s it. There’s always a hope that things are going to come together.

“They say it takes time for the stem cells to really kick in. If I feel great again, do I really want to put my body through that whole thing again? I’m just trying to focus on getting healthy, being happy with what I’m doing, and that’s kind of it. ... Fighting’s so stressful. It took a lot for so long, and just fighting alone if you’re healthy is crazy. Then you’re dealing with injuries, you’re dealing with doctors, you’ve got to go to appointments in the city. It’s been a lot. So I’m just relaxing and chilling out.”

To date, Iaquinta said he’s had three surgeries on his knee in addition to procedures on his hand and other corrections. The trip to Medellin has given him some hope about getting back to normal. The way he’s gone about things up to this point hasn’t led to the results he wanted.

“You don’t get out of this thing unscathed,” he said. “That’s for sure. I’m starting to realize that. ... I used to like the anesthesia. It was like my favorite part of the whole thing, the 10 seconds before you go out. You just wake up. Now, I don’t want to be in a hospital or anywhere near surgery or doctors or anything. I used to think you go in, get surgery, and get fixed, and you’re good. Doesn’t always work like that. It’s a big risk to everything.”

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