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Al Iaquinta hopes to talk Paul Felder off retirement ledge if Dustin Poirier fight fizzles

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

PORTLAND, Ore. – Onetime UFC lightweight title challenger Al Iaquinta hopes he can talk Paul Felder out of retirement if a fight against Dustin Poirier doesn’t materialize.

Iaquinta on Sunday told MMA Fighting the Poirier matchup is “the fight to make,” but he aims to rekindle an old matchup if that’s no longer on the table.

”Paul Felder and I were supposed to fight in the past,” Iaquinta said backstage at Submission Underground 11. “I know he had a rough one this past weekend. But if he does want to come back at some point, I think that’s a good fight.”

Iaquinta recently pushed for a fight with ex-interim champ Poirier, who appeared to agree to a fight if the money and weight were right.

Reached for comment on Monday, Poirier said there’s been “zero movement” on a fight with Iaquinta and indicated the UFC is headed a different direction.

”Me and the UFC have been talking, but he’s never been part of the conversations,” Poirier told MMA Fighting via text.

Iaquinta’s dream is to get a rematch with current lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, whom he fought on short notice for the title at UFC 223. Before a whirlwind of twists and turns that led him to the golden opportunity, he was scheduled to face Felder in a rebooking of a canceled matchup at UFC 218.

The question is whether Iaquinta’s request is too late. Following a brutal decision loss to Dan Hooker this past Saturday at UFC Auckland, Felder indicated he may never fight again, citing the difficulty of separation from his family during training camps.

Iaquinta hadn’t watched the Hooker vs. Felder fight in its entirety because he was traveling to Portland to face UFC welterweight Mike Perry in a submission grappling match. But based on the damage Felder took, he believed Hooker was the rightful winner.

Hooker was the last opponent to hand Iaquinta a loss in the octagon, so Iaquinta knows about heartache courtesy of the New Zealander. He hopes Felder will reconsider his stance.

”I know he had a rough one this past weekend, but if he does want to come back at some point, I think that’s a good fight,” he said. “I think the fans have wanted to see it for a while, and I’d like to mix it up with him.”

Iaquinta lost at SUG 11 when he and Perry went the distance and Perry earned the fastest escape time on the canvas. In the cage afterward, Iaquinta got the crowd going by welcoming a rematch in the octagon.

Backstage, he was welcome to that idea at lightweight. But he had his own stipulations for making that happen at Perry’s usual weight class of 170. Perry, he indicated, didn’t offer as much upside to his career.

”I’d have to think about it,” he said. “It’d have to make sense.”