Earlier in the year, Paul Felder hinted at retirement following his split decision loss against Dan Hooker at UFC Auckland. The bout was an intense affair that certainly took a toll on both fighters’ mental and physical health. Despite the judges’ scoring, many in the MMA circles believe that it was Felder who should have had his hand raised at the end of the five rounds.
Nonetheless, it didn’t take Felder long to announce that he had only contemplated retirement in the heat of the moment and couldn’t wait to fight again.
Speaking to MMA Junkie, Felder opened up on his intention to compete again and how the bout against Hooker affected him both physically and mentally.
“I’m benching myself for a second,” Felder said. “I think that’s the way I would really consider it. I just needed a little break, man. That fight in New Zealand was a tough one. I pour my soul into these fight camps, man. I really don’t hold back. It’s not like I casually take a fight because I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I think I can beat that guy. How many weeks do we have?’ I really try to make sure I check all the boxes. I did that for that one.
“It was so close, and your heart gets broken with a decision. It’s not like I’m crying about it. I just needed time. That was a lot. I was gone for a long time. … I just wanted to be home for a little bit.”
Despite having no shortage of desire to fight, Felder will not cut his time off short for just any contest. Given the toll that competition takes on a combat athlete, the 35 year old states that only an exciting fight will set the ball rolling for him.
The Roufusport team member stated that he has many aspects of his personal life to focus on and, therefore, is in no hurry to return to activity. Felder also pointed out the danger of the sport, using the most recent main event between Hooker and Dustin Poirier as an example of how gruelling fighting can be.
“To be completely honest, man, I’ve been going through a lot,” Felder said. “I’m busy. I’m buying a house. I’m just in no rush to come back for something that will not excite me. I need the next fight to be something that scares me and gets me training and gets me motivated and gives me a reason to leave at eight, nine, ten weeks at a time and put my body through what it goes through.
“Look at those guys on Saturday night: Hooker and Poirier. Those guys are going to be hurting for a while. This is a savage sport. If your head is not quite in it, I’m not going to rush back to get into the cage unless it’s something super exciting.”
After Hooker’s recent loss against Poirier at UFC Vegas 4, Felder believes that the time might be right for a rematch with the Kiwi. ‘The Irish Dragon’ also named ‘The Diamond’ and Tony Ferguson as exciting matchups that could get him back into fight camp. When questioned about the possibility of fighting Conor McGregor, the Philadelphia native doubted that the fight would ever happen.
“That is what would bring me back – a rematch with Dan,” Felder said. “Now, it’d just be, ‘Let’s just run it back.’ Listen, I’ve never really sat and whined and complained about the decision. But it was close enough where you could warrant a rematch between us. … So, yeah, [Hooker], Tony Ferguson, Dustin [Poirier]. The chances of Conor are probably zero, so I won’t even mention that. That’s just not going to happen. So, yeah, those are the fights that I want.”
Felder also spoke about potentially fighting Al Iaquinta. The fight has been previously scheduled on two occasions, although it did not come to fruition on either time. Now, matchmakers seemed to be offering the fight once again, with UFC 252 set as the target.
“That is true, and I said no,” Felder said of the rumoured offer. “I said I want to do ‘Fight Island.’ I want to start a training camp. I want to fight later in the fall. If that’s one of the fights on the table, then possibly. It had nothing to do with Al. I also agreed to fight Al in June, and he hurt his knee again.
“That was probably the third or fourth time that we’ve now been supposedly matched up and something has happened on his end. I know he’s healthy now, and he can be upset all he wants. I don’t really care. He’s selling real estate. I do commentary, Al. I’m doing my second job.”
Felder has been a fan favourite due to an unceasing pressure style and ability to trade damage with his opponents, that established him as one of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division. With talks about returning to competition, fans can be sure that there will be more battles for ‘The Irish Dragon’ in the times to come.
Who would you like to see Paul Felder fight next?