On Monday, Paul Felder (17-5 MMA, 9-5 UFC) dove into the deep waters of testing himself against the longest-tenured fighters in the UFC. He took an offer to fight Rafael Dos Anjos (29-13 MMA, 18-11 UFC) on five days’ notice. Replacing Islam Makhachev for Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 182 at the APEX facility in Las Vegas, he figured he had nothing to lose.
Nicknamed “The Irish Dragon”, the Philadelphia native from Roufusport is looking to slay a Jiu-Jitsu ace dragon in his own right. As Makhachev takes to the sidelines to nurse an undisclosed injury, Felder saw the definite upside of taking a fight with less than a week until the event.
“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 said in an interview with ESPN late Monday night. “What do I have to lose?”
The fight will remain at five rounds in the lightweight division as Dos Anjos was in the main event against Makhachev before his withdrawal. While both fighters competed at welterweight earlier in their careers, Felder will treat this like any other fight he would prepare for. By cutting weight, showing up at the weigh-in, and to do media. There was a previous discussion about holding the fight at catch-weight, but the challenge is more on the up-and-up for the 36-year old.
One small problem for Felder is that his main training partner and cornerman, Jared Gordon will not stand behind him when he goes to fight. Gordon recently came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus and will go into quarantine. Gordon sent a message to Dos Anjos telling him how the fight should go down.
Felder is looking to bounce back after a loss to Dan Hooker when Dos Anjos wants to snap a two-fight losing streak. The event will air on ESPN+ at 4 PM ET.