Following Al Iaquinta’s split-decision win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC Fight Night 63, a hostile reaction from the crowd at Fairfax, Virginia’s Patriot Center prompted a brief, albeit expletive-laced tirade from the victor, Iaquinta, against those in attendance.

The impact of the New York native’s comments, which underscored a rallying effort from losing the first round to claim victory, has taken on a new light in the following days. The tumultuous outburst, perceived by many at the time as an emotional error of judgment in the heat of a close contest, has actively benefited Iaquinta in several ways, which I will elaborate on below.

Iaquinta’s reaction to disapproval and disrespect in the form of crowd boos and alleged middle-fingers is a natural one that common fans can empathize with. His desires to entertain and secure adulation are also relatable, as is his willingness to show anger. In an environment where professional fighters are presented as superheroes incapable of being hurt by regular people, where martial artists are seen as stoic figures incapable of being rattled or phased, Ragin’ Al’s reaction was a unique move away from these well-established dynamics.

Another element of Iaquinta’s reaction that broke convention was his implication that, at any UFC event, the mixed martial artists are the attraction and deserve that recognition from viewers; “you’d better not be booing me!” While this relationship is formalized by the buying of tickets and paying of fighters, many competitors are reluctant to declare it as Iaquinta did in his post-fight interview.

Over time, the interview space has adopted several formalities that viewers have come to expect. From thanking sponsors, to crediting fans as ‘the reason we do this’, they tend to glorify others and not the fighters themselves. While these sentiments may be sincere, their repetitive use hampers their effectiveness. As these messages become clichéd, the audience develops a filter to them and the fighter’s opportunity to vocalize himself or herself for career gain is squandered.

Instead of following this tried and trusted path, Al Iaquinta reminded the crowd that he is the one who should be commended for a winning performance. In doing so, Iaquinta referenced a self-entitlement that plagues many live crowds who have lost touch with the technical skill and physical endurance needed to compete for fifteen minutes. While Las Vegas crowds are most notable for this, there were attendees in Fairfax who similarly preferred to dwell on the outcome of a close fight than acknowledge the efforts of both men. Iaquinta’s speech was particularly endearing to devout MMA fans and active participants in MMA who understand the tenacity required of combat sports competitors but lack the resources to attend live events in person.

Collectively, the effects of Iaquinta’s outburst achieved a difficult feat for many professional athletes in MMA, even among those talented enough to compete in the UFC, creating and sustaining memorability. As the UFC enters the busiest schedule of events in the company’s entire existence, 25 events in under six months, the task maintaining importance becomes increasingly difficult. This problem is compounded further by the rich array of talent at 155 pounds, the sport’s deepest division. Iaquinta has, unintentionally, navigated those obstacles to become one of the most widely discussed lightweight fighters today.

By acknowledging the crowd reaction and addressing it in a way that differs from the status quo, Al Iaquinta seized control of a situation that may have worked against him otherwise. Iaquinta’s post-fight words did not oppose, contradict, or counter his in-cage performance, they complemented it. His speech is recognized as an exclamation point on an impressive showing of pride and determination against a very accomplished fighter in Jorge Masvidal.

While the fight’s outcome may be disputed, there’s no question that Iaquinta’s stock has risen in the fallout of UFC Fight Night 63.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.