Felder Hinting at MMA Return
Paul Felder has been back in the gym recently, having re-entered the anti-doping program with the UFC, while commenting that he might consider getting back into the Octagon for one final run in the sport.
What has Felder Done?
Officially, there’s no stance or real indication of what Paul Felder will do going forward. He’s told MMA news sites that he is back in the gym, taking a MMA regime during his workouts. Felder has expressed he’s feeling exceptionally well and enjoying the process more than ever before – leading him to take action.
However, he’s only done the prerequisite to have the door open to him. Registering on the UFC’s anti-doping program just makes it easier for him to return if he wants to proceed down that route. ‘The Irish Dragon’ has not commented that he wants to step away from his commentary duties with the UFC broadcast team.
Injuries From the Last Run
Felder’s last fight came back in 2020 when he lost to Rafael dos Anjos on a split decision. The bout won the Fight of the Night award, but by this time, his injuries were seriously mounting up. After his loss to Daniel Hooker in the same year, he suffered multiple orbital fractures near the eye. His nose was beaten up, his feet were in a sorry condition, his lung had collapsed and needed surgery…the list goes on. The question is, does he want this kind of trauma and injury again?
Could a Fight With McGregor Attract Felder Back?
Conor McGregor and Paul Felder have had a long-storied spat over the years. While the pair have dramatically tuned down since Felder’s initial retirement, the fact the two never met in the cage but occupied the same weight divisions left a few stones still unturned.
McGregor has been hinting at a UFC return for years now but has been on and off since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov back in 2018, having only fought three fights in five years and lost two of them. Conor, in the past, disputed Felder’s Irish ancestry and said that there is only room for one Irish superstar in the UFC. Dana White would surely be licking his lips at the thought of a UFC in Dublin event with the two headlining the night for the bragging rights. Any hypothetical fight with McGregor generates a frenzy from MMA news sites, and this would be no different.
Hooker vs. Felder II?
Felder is a pragmatic guy. He understands the profession and the risks that come with it. Therefore, he does not attribute Daniel Hooker as being the reason why he got hurt so badly in their fight. It does, however, make a compelling narrative for the UFC to sell to fans.
Hooker is still active in UFC and could be looking for a fight in 2024, having won at UFC 293 back in September 2023. The first match between him and Felder was praised as a thrilling contest. It elevated Hooker to higher levels as his next fights were against Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler. Could he replicate the same trajectory?
Keeps Active and Becomes a Replacement Option
Dana White is known to have great respect for fighters who make themselves available and step into fights at short notice. Felder did that for his last fight against Rafael dos Anjos, as Islam Makhachev pulled out six days before the event due to a staph infection.
If Felder simply trains to full fitness and gets himself match-ready, there’s no doubt that he will be an option for a fight that needs a combatant. At the age of 39, this might be the quickest way for him to re-ascend the rankings by taking a late-notice fight and winning. After three years of retirement, it would be a hard mountain to climb up from the beginning.
Return Doesn’t Have to be in the UFC
While Felder has been mandatorily placed back on the UFC, there’s a chance that he would want to participate outside of the promotion. Dana White’s brand is known to be the pinnacle of the sport. Subsequently, the hardest level of competition. Does a man who’s been out of the sport for three years want to jump back at the deepest end of the MMA pool? Other promotions would be interested in taking him on for a fight or two.
If he’s eager to prove his Irish credentials, he could link up with OKTAGON MMA, who are trialing a new England vs. Republic of Ireland-style tournament where fighters from each nation fight one another for national pride. Despite being born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as he’s the Irish Dragon, surely he’d qualify for the ROI team.
Could he try to Forge a Career in Muay Thai?
Felder fans will recall that before fighting in MMA, Felder practiced Muay Thai during his college career. That led him to take up other martial arts like Shotokan and Taekwondo – eventually becoming a mixed martial artist. When Felder started his MMA career in 2011, Muay Thai was nowhere near as prevalent (outside Thailand).
Now, with the rise of promotions like RWS, Muay Thai for Life, K1, and ONE Championship (which promotes a mixture of different fight styles) becoming more visible than ever, a move to his first discipline is a lot more appealing. Leaning on his UFC experience, Felder could prove to be a tricky opponent in the Muay Thai circuit.
Or he Could Just Stick to the Commentary Booth
Even if he’s back on the UFC roster, he might not fight. He’s reported to be enjoying the cage side duties as a commentator. In fact, by being registered as a fighter and using the roster facilities, he might be granted closer access to the fighters, which will help his broadcast journalism career to create more MMA breaking news.
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