Paul Felder wasn’t going to return to fighting unless it was worth it. Luckily for fight fans, “Irish Dragon” found the matchup he was looking for and will fight Rafael dos Anjos tomorrow night (Sat., Nov. 14, 2020) at UFC Vegas 14 live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
It isn’t the best case scenario for Felder as he’s stepping up on five days notice to fill in for Islam Makhachev, but the lightweight contender will take what he can get. Felder has been contemplating retirement after his last trip to the Octagon so this is a great chance to make his return meaningful and give him a path to title contention at 155 pounds.
“I started to get a little bitter towards the division, and I didn’t see that road,” Felder told reporters during UFC Vegas 14’s virtual media day. “I told you guys from the beginning: If I don’t see that path toward the top, then why I am I doing it? Why am I getting hit in the head? Why am I coming home beat up to my family if I’m not going to be the best? I’m not fighting just to make money. I’m fighting for opportunities to set me up for the future and for bigger things, then this presents itself.
“I’m stepping in on five days’ notice to fight an absolute legend in RDA. If I lose and he takes my ranking, then OK, I know that maybe I’m not meant to be fighting for the title anyway. The path is still there. With a win, how can you not argue to give me a fight that I really want with one of these top guys and one of these exciting matchups at 155 pounds? So for me, it made sense.”
Felder, 36, is coming off a split-decision loss to Dan Hooker back in February. It was one of the best lightweight fights of 2020 and a main even that easily could have went Felder’s way. In the end, “Irish Dragon” came up short in his second split-decision loss in his last four Octagon appearances. Felder is hoping that a short-notice bout against RDA will prove he’s ready to dive back into the deep end and take the risks with the most reward.
“You don’t get the things you want in life by being safe and not taking risks,” Felder said. “I’ve kind of made my career on fighting the dangerous guys, doing the crazy things, going to other countries and fighting in their backyards. This is just another chapter of me doing the stupid stuff in my career.
“I think with a win, it would be awesome to just throw the gloves down and be like, ‘I’m done – five days!’ then walk away. But there’s the other part of me that knows when that hand gets raised it’s going to be like, ‘Oh, I want to do that again.’ I want bigger fights. I want a camp for this one.”
Regardless of how Felder ended up on Saturday’s card the lightweight veteran will still have to perform when the cage door shuts. Dos Anjos will be competing at 155 pounds for the first time since 2016, but he remains a super-dangerous fighter capable of ending any opponent he faces. Felder is going to have to be on top of his game, especially without a camp.
“Just giving him the Philly Phone Booth as (coach) Duke (Roufus) would say,” said Felder when asked how he’ll approach RDA. “Letting him know, ‘You come anywhere near me, you’re getting hit with something hard.’ You want to take me down? You’re going to smash through my hips? When I get back up I’m going to knee you in the face. I’ve got to let him know that there’s going to be violence every step of the way. I think he fights a little bit like that. I think the fans are in for a good one.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 14 fight card, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 7 p.m. ET.