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Paul Felder sees UFC 223 bout as gateway to rankings

Paul Felder is seen before his mixed martial

Paul Felder is seen before his mixed martial arts bout at UFC Fight Night 81, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Boston. Felder won via third round submission. Credit: AP / Gregory Payan

All fighters have numbers to the right of their names. They serve as a ledger of their successes and failures in mixed martial arts bouts.

But Paul Felder wants a number to the left of his name as well. Those are less common, and in the case of the UFC, range from 1 to 15. Wantagh’s Al Iaquinta has one of them — No. 11 in the lightweight division at the moment. Felder seeks ownership of such a position. He will get a chance to gain such consideration this Saturday when he faces Iaquinta at UFC 223 at the Barclays Center.

“He’s had a number for a long time,” Felder said Tuesday. “He’s been sitting in this division inactive, holding that 10-11 spot, back and forth. It’s either kind of, ‘Are you going to do it or not?’”

Iaquinta and Felder first were booked to meet last December, but Iaquinta withdrew for health reasons. Iaquinta (13-3-1) last fought in April 2017 when he knocked out Diego Sanchez in 98 seconds. It was the fifth straight win for Iaquinta, the fourth by knockout. It also was Iaquinta’s first fight in more than two years, a time marked by injury and contract disputes with the UFC.

Felder won three in a row in 2017, all by knockout.

“It’s a fight that I’ve always known was going to be on the horizon,” said Felder (15-3), adding that his former manager talked about this fight four years ago. “He’s from New York, I’m from Philly, he’s got heart, throws down, good boxer, I’m a kickboxer and a striker.

“It kind of all feels like it’s coming together. It should be fireworks.”

This is the place Felder, 33, has waited for, that cusp of stardom. He made it this far on the strength of his 2017 in the cage, along with building up his profile as a fight analyst for UFC’s “Contender Series” and several FS1 cards. And now he kicks off the UFC 223 main card on pay-per-view, a nice little treat for Felder.

“Now it’s about winning these big fights,” Felder said. “I want to keep that momentum, I want to be one of these guys in this division that’s on an eight-, nine-, 10-fight win streak, headlining cards. That’s what I want for 2018. I want to be a main event. I want to be a draw, I want to show the UFC that I’m going to be a guy who can pull in numbers for this organization.”

All these numbers Felder spoke off, ironically, need a letter to fall into place: W.

New York Sports