On April 7th, 2007 almost 16,000 fans packed the Toyota Center in Houston Texas to witness UFC 69. Tonight was the night that The Ultimate Fighter Season 4 winner Matt Serra would be facing the Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre. There were many memorable moments from that night, Diego Sanchez was beaten for the first time in his professional career by Josh Koscheck, and Tito Ortiz almost went to blows with up and coming superstar Rashad Evans. With all the other great fights on that card, there was only one fight that was on everyone’s mind and that was the main event. The MMA world was not giving Matt Serra a chance against GSP that night, everyone thought that GSP was too big for the Renzo Gracie blackbelt to handle. When the bell sounded, Matt Serra came out guns blazing and rocked the champ with an over hand right that put GSP off balance, and Matt continued the onslaught until referee John McCarthy pulled Serra off and he was now the UFC Welterweight Champion, completing the biggest upset in UFC history, which still stands today.
Now I know what you are thinking, “Why are you writing about a fight that happened 11 years ago?” The answer is quite simple… On April 7, 2018 UFC 223 will be taking place at the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, New York and was supposed to be headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, they were going to be fighting for the Undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship. The current champ, Conor McGregor was to be stripped before the bout took place due to his absence in the organization since winning the belt back in November of 2016 at UFC 205. With a little over a week to go before the fight, Tony was doing his media obligations for UFC 223, tripped over some wires in the studio, fell and blew out his ACL and was diagnosed unable to fight. This is not the first time this has happened between Khabib and Tony, but this was the most disappointing fight cancelation just because this fight has been teased for so long and this time it was for the belt. In true warrior fashion, Featherweight Champ Max Holloway wanted to step in on short notice to fight the undefeated Nurmagomedov and become a two division champ.
So now us fight fans are chomping at the bit for UFC 223 to take place with a great headline fight and a strong undercard. Just one more press conference to go the day before weigh-in’s and then…… Conor McGregor storms the loading dock of the Barclays Center with 20 of his friends and they begin attack the bus that some of the fighters were riding in, one of those fighters was Khabib. Khabib had an altercation a few days before with Artem Lobov, who is a friend and teammate of Conor’s. Artem and Conor have been very vocal about Khabib on social media, and as things do in tense situations heated words were exchanged. Just like in the scene of a movie, Conor and his band of hooligans starting throwing things like chairs at the bus, but Conor took it one step too far throwing a dolly through the window of the bus shattering the glass and injuring fighters and some of the UFC crew on that bus. UFC lightweight Michael Chiesa had lacerations on his face and head forcing him to be pulled from his bout against Anthony Pettis, Ray Borg was also pulled from the card, having pieces of glass in his eyes. Rose Namajunas almost broke her hand, and was badly shaken up after the incident, but her co-main event fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk was still on as planned. Artem Lobov was involved with the bus incident, so he was pulled from the card, he was slated to fight Alex Caceres. Three bouts had been taken off this card before the weigh-in’s, but we still had the main event and some other great fights to look forward to.
Friday morning, the internet was buzzing with videos of Conor being taken into custody, everyone wondering if the UFC will ever let him fight again. There was no time to dwell on the Conor nonsense at this point because it was time for the early weigh-in’s, one by one media outlets are letting us know that so far, everyone is making weight, and then disaster strikes AGAIN! NYSAC stated that Max was dropping too much weight in a short amount of time, and would not allow him to fight. At this point, Dana White probably wishes that he took his $500 million and opened up a chain of Cardio Kickboxing Academy’s because this card just isn’t working out. Anthony Pettis offers to step in, he’s a little over the weight limit but has two hours to drop weight to make 155lbs. Rumors are Pettis was not satisfied with what the UFC was going to pay him to fight Khabib on short notice, so they took the scale away, and we all thought the main event was done. Hours went by through the day, and rumors were flying all over Twitter about Paul Felder maybe stepping in, but then the answer we were looking for came through and the fight was offered and accepted by Long Island fighter out of the Serra/Longo fight team “Ragin” Al Iaquinta!!! Even though Al was a little over the weight limit for a title fight, UFC President Dana White said that “If Al wins the fight, he will be considered the champion, the NYSAC might not recognize him as the champ, but we will. This would sound strange any other time, but with all that has been surrounding this card for the past week, Dana’s comment is probably the only normal thing that has happened.
So here it is, 11 years ago to the day that Matt Serra shocked the world by defeating GSP in a fight that the experts said Matt had no chance in. Al finds himself in almost the same position as his coach Matt did all those years ago. An opponent who as it seems, has fighters running scared from him, most people (including myself) feel that Conor McGregor is afraid of Khabib just because his grappling is better than anyone to do it at the lightweight division. This is a no lose situation for Iaquinta, with all the battles he’s gone through in the past with Dana White, he is now being given the opportunity to not only beat an undefeated Khabib, but become the champion in his hometown. When it comes to Mixed Martial Arts, you don’t get the misty eyed endings that you get in the movies where the “Hometown boy wins the big one.” In most cases, the underdog simply gets beat, and when it comes to Khabib, he usually beats them easily and for 25 minutes straight. Can Al find that magic that Matt had 11 years ago on this very day? That question will be answered in just a few short hours, but the MMA community will be on the edge of their seats, seeing if tonight will be the night Khabib finally gets defeated.