Official: Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight Al Iaquinta at UFC 223

Official: Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight Al Iaquinta at UFC 223
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s participation at UFC 223 has at last been finalized, after Al Iaquinta agreed to fight the undefeated Russian, replacing Max Holloway in the main event fight in New York on Saturday.

Looks like Nurmagomedov's saga about the number of fighters he could have faced this Saturday in Brooklyn has finally came to the end, as New York's own Iaquinta is now set to fight in a five-round bout against The Eagle. 

The lightweight championship belt, however, will be on the line only for the latter, as his American opponent could not reach the weight limit of 155 pounds, which is the mandatory for the title fight.

Nurmagomedov's original opponent, the interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, had to pull out from the fight less than a week ago, due to a knee injury. The same day, April 1, UFC featherweight champion Holloway stepped in as a short-notice replacement for Ferguson.

But he was also removed from the card on Friday morning, during the weigh-in ceremony, as he was declared medically unfit by the New York State Athletic Commission.

READ MORE: Nurmagomedov v Holloway canceled after US fighter declared unfit to fight

Lightweight Anthony Pettis, who was originally scheduled to fight Michael Chiesa at the same event, has, since then, been in talks with the UFC to replace Holloway. But, as we know now, the sides could not reach an agreement.

It’s interesting to note that Chiesa was removed from the card after receiving facial cuts caused by shattered glass, after Conor McGregor attacked the bus carrying fighters from the UFC 223 card on Thursday, apparently hunting for Nurmagomedov. 

McGregor was later arrested and charged with three counts of assault and one of criminal mischief for his actions. The UFC 223 card as a result lost three fights as, apart from Chiesa, Ray Borg was also injured during the bus attack, while McGregor’s friend and sparring partner Artem Lobov has been removed from from the event for his involvement in the attack.

The final cut this weekend's card suffered was when Iaquinta, who was originally scheduled to fight Paul Felder, was elevated to fight Nurmagomedov, leaving Felder without an opponent. Fight fans, therefore, can expect to see nine fights in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, instead of the original thirteen.

The 30-year-old Long Island native Iaquinta stands 13-3 in professional MMA, including eight victories and one loss in the UFC. He was forced to miss two years, between 2015 and 2017, due to injuries, and had his last fight a year ago. Back then, he knocked out his last opponent, Diego Sanchez in the first round of their bout and extended his UFC winning streak to five fights.