UFC star Al Iaquinta wants to prove he's worthy of another fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov -- saying he's convinced he can beat the Dagestani if he gets more than 1 day to prepare.
Remember, Al stepped as a last-minute replacement for Max Holloway at UFC 223 in April 2018 ... and survived all 5 rounds with Khabib, despite zero preparation for one of the scariest guys in MMA.
Since that fight, Al beat up Kevin Lee and has lined up a big fight with Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at 'UFC Fight Night' on May 4.
Al tells TMZ Sports he wants to make a statement in the Cowboy fight to show everyone he's the real deal -- and deserves a second crack at Khabib.
"I fought Khabib not only on a day's notice but also after fighting 90 seconds in 3 years," Iaquinta says ... "So it was short notice and a huge layoff."
Al -- the #4 ranked lightweight in the UFC -- says he knows he needs to have a "great performance" against Cowboy ... and seems more motivated than ever.
We spoke with Al after the first fight with Khabib and even though he was bruised up, he never lacked confidence.
As for Khabib, Dana White has said his next fight will be against interim champ Dustin Poirier -- and they're gunning for a Sept. fight date.
But as Al knows ... if Dustin gets hurt and Dana needs a replacement, he could be the guy who gets the call.
Stay tuned ...