Paul Felder has made a bold decision to step in on short notice to fight former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos on less than a week’s notice in the main event of UFC Fight Night 183 on Saturday night.
RDA had originally been scheduled to fight Islam Makhachev, but after he pulled out due to an injury, the No.7 ranked Felder agreed to go up against him on just five days notice.
“I thought about it and I decided with everything going on in the world and all the sad things going on in people’s lives and losing their jobs and suffering and we just lost Alex freaking Trebek to pancreatic cancer, I was like, ‘Man, you know you’re still 36. You’re young. You’re in shape. Save the date. Let’s go get paid. Let’s have fun. You’re fighting a legend,’” Felder told ESPN. “What do I have to lose?”
Felder admits that the weight cut to 156lbs won’t be easy, but he had been in training to do a triathalon, so he’s in decent shape.
“I’m well under (180),” said Felder, who can usually be up as high as 200lbs when not in camp. “I’m in the 70s. I’ll give you that. I’m in the 70s. With some time and water-loading and dehydration, I’ll be fine.”
RDA has been competing at 170lbs recently, so perhaps it would have been fairer to at least do a catchweight, but Felder isn’t complaining.
“I think he really wants to be fighting the top guys at 155 to make his comeback and give himself a chance,” Felder said. “… Obviously, we talked about catchweights. But I know with main events, if possible, they like to keep it at the weight class. That was one of the things, ‘Do you think you can make it?’ It’s not going to be fun, but I’m going to make it.
The weight cut isn’t the only mountain Felder will have to climb as the fight is set to remain as a five-rounder, despite short-notice match-ups like this often being scaled back to just three.
“I like five-round fights. If you’re going to do a main event, I want to do it right. That’s what he’s been scheduled to do. Yeah, five rounds. I’m excited to do another five rounds especially with somebody like RDA. This is an experience. We’re going to see. My brain is fresh. My body is fresh. I’m not taking beatings in sparring like I normally do but I’m still staying technically sharp and staying very fit, so we’ll see.”
Felder had flirted with retirement earlier this year following a split decision loss to Dan Hooker, and it seems it’s still something that’s in his thoughts, though clearly taking this match-up suggests that there’s still plenty of fight left in him.
“I know I’m nearing the end of my career soon,” Felder said. “This, I think, it’s win-win for me because if I go in there and I can finish and beat RDA, a former champ, then it gives me a lot of selling points to be getting these bigger fights which seem to be alluding me at the top five of the lightweight division here in the UFC. How do you not give me something big after this if I go in there after stepping up? And if it doesn’t go my way, then I saved the day. I’m going in there to try to win, so we’ll see.”
“I say 50-50 (this is my last fight),” Felder continued. “. … I was thinking about that. What a way to just be like, ‘Boom. Mic-drop.’ So yeah. (The odds of retirement) probably do (increase), actually. They probably do increase. If I lose, then I might want to have to get back in there for one more. It might eat away at me just like the (Dan) Hooker fight did. I was ready to move on and then it’s like, you still haven’t proven quite what I’m capable of.”