Al Iaquinta has emerged as a fan favourite since his ballsy exploits against Khabib Nurmagomedov and recent win over Kevin Lee. However, he will not be fighting another popular fighter in Justin Gaethje any time soon.

The pair were due to fight at UFC Fight Night 135 last August, but the bout was scrapped. Instead, Gaethje fought and beat towering lightweight James Vick.

But after Iaquinta’s late-notice performance against Nurmagomedov and two victories over a former UFC lightweight title challenger in Lee, the Long Islander is only looking up in the UFC rankings for his next opponent.

“I’m looking up in the rankings,” Iaquinta told MMAjunkie Radio. “I think Gaethje, he’s kind of had his opportunity, and he chose to fight Vick. He wanted to do what was best for him, so now I’m going to do what’s best for me. Fighting below me in the rankings is definitely not (it). It’s a good fight, but I think there’s guys that’ll put me right up there. Those are the guys I’m gunning for.

“And I think that the fans want that, and the UFC wants that, so I think everyone is on the same page, except for him.”

Ranked fourth in the UFC lightweight rankings, Iaquinta will be looking at the likes of Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier and one Conor McGregor above him. In fact, Iaquinta and McGregor have been exchanging barbs over social media of late.

“I could see it being any one of those top three guys, really – Ferguson, Conor or Dustin,” Iaquinta said. “I think it’ll be one of those guys.”

“I think all three of those guys, a good win over any one of them puts me right up there to get that title shot again,” Iaquinta continued. “I put on a better fight than Conor did against Khabib, so I think he should have to fight somebody [before an immediate rematch]. And I beat Kevin Lee, who I think is another guy that would give Conor tons and tons of trouble.”