In the aftermath of a wild and brutal slugfest against Dan Hooker on Feb. 22 in Auckland, New Zealand, Paul Felder hinted that he was contemplating retirement after the 35-year-old Philadelphia native had just lost a split decision by the thinnest of margins. But with a couple of weeks to think it over, it seems Felder isn’t ready to hang up his gloves.
Asked point-blank on Monday’s edition of Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show if he thinks he’s fought his last fight, Felder was brief and to the point.
A lot of emotions were running through Felder’s mind, and after rewatching the fight, he felt he did enough to win. But after he got so close to cracking the top five in the division and fell just short, Felder’s mind wandered to the physical strain of training and fighting, all while being apart from his 4-year-old daughter.
“That moment almost seemed right, but nah, I think I’ve got a lot more left in me physically,” Felder said. “I’m already recovering from one of the hardest battles of my life, and s—, it’s addictive, man. That five rounds, that main event, I liked it. I liked being on the poster.
“I’m a pretty dramatic guy. I kind of always think about that moment [of retiring in the cage]. Just as I always think about what having the belt put around my waist would be like and taking that back to Philly. Or fighting at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, or bringing the belt to the Eagles’ stadium, The Linc, and hanging out with the team. I fantasize about all of these things, and retirement is just another one of them. And it’s not in any bad way.”
Felder made it clear that while he doesn’t think he’s finished with fighting by any stretch, his performance in the fight with Hooker justifies a certain level for his next fight.
“When I show up, I’m going to put on a goddamn show for everybody, including the UFC,” Felder said. “I feel like after that main event, I proved that I can promote it, I can hype it up and I can execute [in the cage].
“I think at this point it’s safe to say I’m only coming back for things that really entice me. Things that are going to make me train the way I did for this fight — five-round fights, big, huge matchups with somebody who excites me. Other than that, I’ll just do commentary and wait for that matchup.”
So what will it take to get Felder back into the cage?
“If something were to happen to any of these guys in the top five and they can’t match up the way the UFC wants them to match up,” said Felder. “There’s been some talk of Al Iaquinta wanting to fight me, and if you give me a five-rounder with him on a big Fight Night, or a rematch with Hooker, which is never going to happen, but obviously that’s something I would take to get that one back.
“I’m not coming back for the last fight on the prelims, or even the second fight on a pay-per-view. And it’s nothing against them. It’s not saying that I deserve all of these extra things. It’s just, to go through what I go through and put myself through in training, and then you see how I pushed myself in the fight, you can’t deny that anymore.”