Paul Felder is set to step in on just five days notice in order to fight Rafael dos Anjos. Felder will be replacing Khabib training partner Islam Makhachev for the main event of UFC Vegas 14, who was forced to withdraw after an undisclosed injury. The fight between Makhachev and dos Anjos was initially supposed to take place at UFC 254 but was cancelled after dos Anjos tested positive for COVID-19.
Amazingly, the fight is still slated as a five round main event. We’ve seen ESPN+ main events get flexed to three rounds if there is a late pull out in the past. The UFC has also elevated co-main’s to three round main events before, which most recently happened with Aleksandar Rakic and Anthony Smith at UFC Vegas 8. Smith vs. Rakic became the main event after Yair Rodriguez had to withdraw from his bout with Zabit after an ankle injury, but didn’t get flexed to five rounds.
Rafael dos Anjos praised Felder for taking the fight in a tweet. “We need more fighters like you @felderpaul thank you for take the fight and save the show” said the former UFC Lightweight champion.
“The show must go on as they say! This man is a legend. These are the moments I will tell my grandkids about,” Felder said in response.
It is certainly understandable why fighters don’t often take five round fights on short notice. Championship rounds are something that only a handful of UFC fighters ever participate in, and the one’s that do have their endurance pushed to the limit. Felder is no stranger to five rounds, however, as he went the full five against Dan Hooker his last go around. The Philly native looked fantastic in the latter rounds against Hooker, though he ultimately lost the fight. Many fans thought Felder won, though it truly could have gone either way.
Following the high stakes divisional match-up with Hooker, “The Irish Dragon” contemplated retirement. An emotional Felder talked about wanting to spend more time with his daughter post-fight. This drew a standing ovation from Hooker’s home New Zealand crowd.
Seeing as how Paul Felder is a fan favorite, fight fans are more than pleased to see him back in the Octagon.
According to Jon Anik, Felder had been training for a March 14 triathlon in Miami. The Philadelphia born Felder of course doubles down as a broadcaster for the UFC, becoming a fan favorite in that lane as well.