Paul Felder has refused to become a cautionary tale about a fighter who has been in the sport for too long.
Although still ranked among the best lightweight in the world, the 37-year-old veteran began to realize that his days in mixed martial arts were numbered when he was no longer excited to go to the gym and let alone put his body to the test. from a training camp.
That’s why Felder finally made the decision to call it a career on Saturday night at UFC Vegas 27 while explaining what exactly led to his retirement.
“I really waited to find out,” Felder told the post-fight press conference. “After the [Dan] Bitch fight, it was pretty emotional and I lost the fight and I’m away from home and it was a fight. But then I found that fire again when I had the [Rafael dos Anjos] fight. I went back and did camps and I was helping Sean Brady get ready for the fights and I was hitting pads, I was lifting again, I was doing all of these things and just slowly over time I started to drift into doing my own things and really just love doing this triathlon thing on my own, having time, seeing my daughter every day after school, dropping her off at school. Train in my own little pain cave at home in the garage and do stuff.
“I don’t think I’m going to get to the belt. I think this is the first time that I have finally really thought about after these two consecutive losses, watching guys like ‘Jacare’ [Souza] break your arm, watch dudes like ‘Cowboy’ [Cerrone] fight five more fights than I think they should. I won’t be that guy. I’ve said this from the very beginning of this sport, I won’t be that guy who will fight after its expiration date and I think it’s here. I think it’s a bit early, but I prefer it to be a bit early rather than late.
According to Felder, before agreeing to a very short notice fight with Rafael dos Anjos last November, the UFC actually gave him a whole new contract with the kind of pay that would serve as an incentive to continue his career.
Regardless of the money, Felder simply didn’t have that same drive anymore and once he realized the change in him it was time to hang up the gloves for good.
“If a whole new contract just passed me through the UFC without even negotiating, after that RDA fight they took my contract, which had three more fights in it, rejected it and said ‘here is your new one.’ It was a good one. It is the one that I always wanted or close to him. Obviously, if I keep winning fights it will get better, but who am I going to fight against? Who am I going to fight now? Felder said.
“There are a lot of guys below me who are amazing. Islam Makhachev, Diego Ferreira, Gregor Gillespie, yes they can probably beat me, I can probably beat them, I’m not excited about that. Tony Ferguson, three-game losing streak, not excited about it. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do a week in the hospital, shatter my orbital, break my face, puncture a lung, more scars and cuts than I can even count. I don’t want that anymore.
While he’ll always love fighting and the career he’s built, Felder understood that preparing for another top opponent would take more than he had to give these days. That’s when he knew it was time to retire and let the lightweight division go by without him.
“That spark that I have to fight, especially the way I fight, just wasn’t there anymore,” Felder said. “If I’m not even eager to train to do this stuff and get some offers to fight.” The only reason it took so long is that I gave everyone a chance to really convince myself. The UFC was really good and really patient with me.
“Sean Shelby called me several times. I had a conversation with me to see where my head was. We had this conversation twice recently and the second I finally called it back the other day I felt like I was retiring on Saturday. I finished.”
Further proof that his career was truly over, Felder admits he wasn’t even fired after seeing former opponent Charles Oliveira come out and recently become UFC lightweight champion.
Before the Brazilian’s nine-game winning streak, Felder was the last opponent to defeat him after pummeling Oliveira with elbows to win a second round knockout.
“No, this is not the case [give me that spark]Felder said when asked about Oliveira’s recent triumph. “If you’re the last to knock out the current champion… because he’s not the same guy. He’s a beast now. I’m not saying I couldn’t potentially beat him. I still think to this day that there isn’t a guy on this list that I couldn’t beat on any given day, but I just don’t think I’m going to get the fights and chain the wins that are going to be won. . me the momentum to get to this fight.
“I’m just going to hang on to that Charles Oliveira knockout and get the hell out of here.” You never get that buddy back. I knocked you out but now you are champion and you look great doing it.
Long-term health has also remained a concern for Felder as he looks to the future.
While avoiding any lingering injuries that still haunted him, Felder was well aware that there was no guarantee that he would remain so healthy if he continued to fight.
In the end, all of these reasons added to Felder who made the decision to retire and leave with his mind and body intact, which is sadly more than many top combat sports athletes. plan can be said after a career spent taking punches.
“I don’t want to be hit on the head anymore,” Felder said. “I don’t have any major health issues right now that worry me, but I have had battles and been in more battles than in the octagon where I have been in the room. I used to train really hard and I’ve fought really high level guys for years and years and years and I’m getting closer to 40 everyday.
“I want to be able to play sports and do other things and do activities with my daughter and play with my dog and do things like that.”