01 Jan Paul Felder: ‘You don’t get the things you want in life by being safe and not taking risks’
Paul Felder knows he’s not like most fighters.
In fact he was pretty much counting on that fact when the UFC came calling with an opportunity to face Rafael dos Anjos in a five-round main event at 155 pounds only five days before the event took place.
Originally scheduled to work the show as a color commentator, Felder switched gears in a hurry in order to accept the fight without any conditions put in place. He didn’t ask for a catchweight fight. He didn’t ask for three rounds instead of five.
Because that’s not how Felder is built.
“That’s the reason they’re not here and I’m here,” Felder said when speaking to MMA Fighting during the UFC Vegas 14 media day. “Listen, you don’t get the things you want in life by being safe and by not taking risks. I’ve kind of made my career fighting the dangerous guys, doing the crazy things, going to other countries and fighting them in their backyards.
“This is just another for the storybooks of the stupid stuff that I do throughout my career. It’s what I’ve made my career off of.”
Because the fight was offered under such extreme circumstances, Felder could have asked for some concessions from the UFC in order to accept the challenge but he didn’t make them change a thing.
Instead, Felder looks at this as a unique opportunity to prove why he’s a different breed than so many other fighters on the UFC roster who would never even consider this kind of risk.
“I want to make all the money and I want to get some extra money,” Felder said. “You want to negotiate for bigger paychecks and extra stuff you can’t be like ‘but uhmm, it’s gotta be this, this and this.’ Then they’ll be like ‘OK, we’ll give you a catchweight, OK, we’ll give you three rounds, but you’re not getting anything else.’
“If you want to get more out of it, you’ve got to be willing to do some stuff, too. So I was like all right, I’ll do ‘55, I’ll do five rounds, but I want this and here we are.”
Felder revealed that he was training for a triathlon when the UFC offered him the fight with dos Anjos and that was the only reason he was able to commit to a lightweight contest.
Typically, “The Irish Dragon” walks around north of 190 pounds but thanks to 10-mile runs and 50-mile bike rides in order to build his endurance, he was well on his way to making the 156-pound limit for a non-title fight.
“I wouldn’t have done the ‘55 thing if I didn’t think that I could make the weight. I was walking around pretty skinny,” Felder explained.
“Let me tell you — this weight cut is better than that weight cut was [for a fight against Ross Pearson]. I had a four-week camp for Ross Pearson and barely made weight for that fight. This fight, I feel like it’s on a better track than that one.”
Following a razor-close loss in his last outing against Dan Hooker in February, Felder said with honesty that he wasn’t sure that he would return to fight again.
While he largely put retirement into the rear-view mirror since then, Felder hadn’t exactly been racing to book another fight until the bout with dos Anjos was offered for UFC Vegas 14.
In a way, Felder is looking at this fight much like the showdown with Hooker as a proving ground to see where he stands in his career as well as assessing his future.
“I’m stepping in on five days’ notice to fight an absolute legend in RDA,” Felder said. “If I lose and he takes my ranking, OK, then I know that maybe I’m not meant to be fighting for the title anyway. So that path is still there.
“With a win, how can you argue to not give me a fight that I really want with one of these top guys and one of these exciting matchups at 155 pounds? For me, it just made sense.”
Felder has already been praised for even accepting this fight regardless of the outcome but he’s obviously gunning for a win.
In the long term, Felder believes that stepping up the way he did to help save the event on Saturday night will be remembered much longer than standing on the sidelines calling out higher ranked opponents who haven’t been clamoring to fight him lately.
He hopes with a win, those same fighters will have no choice but to face him next.
“The thing is as I get older, I work as a commentator, I see everything now. I know how this business works a lot more,” Felder said. “I know that stepping up, I know that throwing down and fighting your balls off and going hard and not sloppy, not being a maniac out there but if you go for it, that stands out. Fighting people that they want you to fight, stands out. Putting on a show and performances are what sets you out. It’s not necessarily ‘what’s his ranking?’
“If you go out there and you finish dudes or you look good going hard, look good on the feet, doing things like that, that’s what will get you what you want. That’s going to get you the bonuses. That’s what’s going to renegotiate your contracts better. Not sitting on the sidelines begging for the No. 5 guy, the No. 4 guy. So I had to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve been kind of saying that and here I am. I’m going to fight a guy who’s not ranked at 155 but he’s a former champion and it’s a main event. I don’t think that really matters here.”