There’s a point in every relationship when things become stale. Partners start blaming each other, and every little thing becomes a trigger that flares up into something bigger. It’s a rough patch that everyone in a relationship is bound to encounter, eventually, and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
So of course Al Iaquinta and the UFC are at odds. They’re frustrated with each other. It’s been five years and things haven’t exactly panned out like they initially hoped.
But before the relationship can be repaired, it’s important to diagnose the real issue. And let’s face it, Al Iaquinta and the UFC are not the same people they were when they first jumped into each other’s arms five years ago on the set of #TheUltimateFighter.
Back in 2012, “Raging” Al was a really attractive commodity, a young stud with grappling and striking credentials. The UFC was courting him hard, and Al was receptive. He even had his friends Ray Longo, Matt Serra, and #ChrisWeidman find out if the promotion liked him, or, like, liked him, liked him.
In reality, the UFC has never been the one-man or one-woman type. How can any promotion truly be a monogamist with so many great fighters out there in need of a push? Still, they offered Al a deal, and he accepted, despite the flings with other lightweights like Pettis and dos Anjos, and trysts with Cerrone and Alvarez.
Al and the UFC were going steady, and strong, for a while, and things even got pretty hot and heavy in 2015, after Iaquinta rattled off four-straight wins and earned a shot at Gilbert Melendez. That fight fell through, and that’s when the cracks in the relationship began to manifest.
The UFC, players that they’ve always been, tucked Al away like a side piece on the mend. His body wasn’t quite what it was when they first met, and soon thereafter the two were going back and forth about surgeries, who’s responsible, and who needed to pay.
To hear one side of the story, it seemed like Lorenzo Ferttita was the only one willing to compromise, to step in and help Al through a difficult time, when he struggled with body image issues and a nasty knee injury. But Lorenzo is long gone at this point, and the relationship is definitely in need of a new peacemaker.
Only through honesty and reflection can both sides truly express their needs from here on out. But, with some careful introspection, it’s likely that #AlIaquinta and the UFC will both see how perfect they are for each other:
- Al likes to fight. The UFC loves fighters who like to fight.
- Al likes to talk up a big game and rile opponents up. The UFC loves fighters who like to talk up a big game and rile opponents up.
- Al likes to start public controversy and curse out fans on live television. The UFC loves those kind of ratings.
- Al likes to trash hotel rooms, the UFC loves … well, on second thought ...
There’s definitely a trend of self-destructive and selfish behavior on both sides, and while there was a temporary reconciliation at #UFCNashville a few weeks ago -- remember, Al absolutely obliterated Diego Sanchez -- things went from on again, to off again at the recent UFC Athlete Retreat, after Al learned that the UFC announced its partnership with Hospital for Special Surgery (according to Al, he’s the one who made first contact with HSS, years ago).
And in order for things to get better, both Al and the UFC need to adequately express their feelings. Well, maybe the ball is more in the UFC’s court in that respect, since Al has done a pretty good job of letting everyone know how he feels and what he wants, all while picking fights with Mike Perry and Tony Ferguson.
Maybe if he would only express his needs with some tenderness, and not just demand "the sooner you realize I'm the man the better we'll both be." Maybe then the UFC would be able to reciprocate, and give Al the love he always wanted from a promotion where he’s gone 8-2, and even gone out on his shield, twice, in the rarely seen #technialsubmission loss.