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Paul Felder plans to knock out Dan Hooker 'in front of all his friends and family' at UFC Auckland

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WASHINGTON – Paul Felder will enter the octagon against Dan Hooker at UFC on ESPN+ 26 with some bad intentions.

Just days after their lightweight headliner was booked for February, Felder (17-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) traveled to New Zealand for media obligations and a faceoff with Hooker (19-8 MMA, 9-4 UFC). There was serious intensity between the two during the staredown, and it left “The Irish Dragon” all kinds of fired up.

Felder said there was nothing fabricated about the heat with Hooker, and he thinks it’s because the stakes of the matchup are so high.

“As far as intensity, that was real,” Felder told MMA Junkie. “I went down to New Zealand expecting a little bit of that from Dan because of how we interacted on social media. We kind of went back-to-forth a little bit. But that’s what it’s all about. We’re two guys that are trying to rally for a title shot after this one. We’re in each other’s way. That’s how it should be, that’s how it’s supposed to be when you’ve got a five-round main event with a guy.

“I’m invading into his country. My whole plan is to knock his ass out in front of all his friends and family and take that money and get out of there and go on to a title shot.”

Felder, 34, said he’s taking his opportunity against Hooker very seriously. He has been pushing hard for a big fight in the lightweight division after winning his past five bouts in the weight class, and now he gets his wish.

UFC on ESPN+ 26, which takes place Feb. 22 at Spark Arena in Auckland and streams on ESPN+, will mark Felder’s first UFC main event appearance. He said he felt the promotion wasn’t all that keen to put him there, but intends to prove the right choice was made with his performance.

“I either wanted a really high ranked opponent or I wanted a main event,” Felder said. “I made that really clear to my manager, to Sean Shelby, to Dana White that, ‘Look, this is what I want.’ For some reason it seemed Dana was a little reluctant to give me that shot, to kind of give me that chance to step in there. I don’t know what it is about my style that is any question you wouldn’t want to have in a five-round fight.

“They finally trusted me, they gave me that opportunity and they gave me that shot. That’s what I want. I didn’t care that Dan’s the one ranked behind me, that stuff doesn’t matter. He’s been on an absolute killing streak right now. So if I take him out, that just sets me up for one more fight potentially until fighting for the belt.”

Despite the tense faceoff, Felder said he doesn’t have any true disdain for Hooker, other than the fact he’s the man standing in the way of achieving career goals. That’s all he needs to get his focus fully dialed in for fight night, though.

“We got some bad blood right now,” Felder said. “Obviously I’m trying to hurt this man. He’s trying to hurt me. But I respect his skillset, I know what he offers, I know what he brings to the table and he knows, based on that staredown, he knows what I’m coming with, too. He knows what he’s in for.”

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