It looks like another run at 155 pounds is in Paul Felder’s immediate future. But the door hasn’t been closed to taking another crack at the welterweight division.
The popular lightweight contender and color commentator went up to 170 pounds to take on Mike Perry at UFC 226, and it won’t go down as the best night of his career. Felder suffered a broken right ulnar bone throwing a spinning back fist early in the fight, then toughed his way through the rest of the fight and a split-decision loss without one of his biggest weapons.
So as Felder continues his recovery, he’s got his eyes back on a run at lightweight, where he’s on a three-fight win streak and won five of his past six.
“I was on a three-fight winning streak and now I took an loss, but I only took a loss at 170,” Felder told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “So I still haven’t lost over a year at 155 so I’m hoping that, I gotta talk to coaches and my manager and things like that. But I was really leaning toward ’70 leading up to that fight and now I want to try to make one more really strong run at getting into the top 5 and I’d love to fight for that belt some day.”
But the circumstances behind the Perry fight are such that he doesn’t believe that doubters should put much stock into his performance. Felder took the fight on two weeks’ notice, as he had been training for a lightweight bout with James Vick that got pulled out from under him by the UFC.
With a full fight camp, and without the dumb luck of his bad hand break, Felder believes he can still make some noise at welterweight.
“The unfortunate thing for me is, if that had gone well, I think ’70 is very much a possibility,” Felder said. “I don’t think size or strength is really why things went wrong. I think it was just a tough fight, circumstances didn’t go my way. I got hurt, but I really feel I could compete at that weight class, but I do, also, a big part of me thinks I could really still make a run at the top at 155.”
But Felder still has some time to finalize his decision either way as he recovers from his forearm break. Felder, who was on his way to the doctor’s for an X-ray and an update while talking to The MMA Hour on Monday, had a metal plate inserted into the arm, and is under the impression that if all goes well, he could return to the cage as early as December.
“Realistically, I everything goes well, December is possible,” Felder said. “There’s a metal plate in there dude, so the doctor told me, this isn’t going anywhere, we want to make sure that the bone which is attached to the plate where it was broken is fully healed before you start going too crazy but that was the reason we went with having the plate put in versus maybe trying to line it up and letting it heal in a cast because that would have taken significantly longer to just let it heal on its own.”
Felder said he’s watched Perry fight 15 times, and while he didn’t realize something was seriously wrong until he was in his corner between the first and second rounds, everything from viewing the fight suggest that the spinning back fist which landed on Perry’s skull was the culprit.
“It’s gotta be, man,” Felder said of the errant back fist. “I’ve watched that fight at least 15 times and the only thing that I can see that would have caused that type of a break was that spinning back fist that hit off of the top of Mike’s head. He’s got a hard head.
“I knew something was wrong but at first I thought my arm was just stiff and sore. Then in between the first and second round in the corner, I was trying to make fist, because I couldn’t make a full fist because the bone had snapped and I could feel crunching, I could feel the bones grinding together in my wrist. That’s how I knew something was very wrong.”
As he waits for the green light, Felder isn’t sitting still. His broadcast pairing with Brandon Fitzgerald has earned rave critical reviews, and the frequent Contender Series combo returns to action on Saturday at UFC Lincoln.
And while Felder appreciates the respect and admiration of the fans, he asks you don’t be like the Wawa cashier who accosted him on throwing spinning back fists during a visit to the store last month.
“My face was still banged up but more importantly, I still had this on (points to splint).” Felder said. “He’s like ‘what happened to your wing, bro?’ I’m like, okay. I hate explaining to people who don’t know what’s going on, I’m just gonna start saying tripped and fell landed on my wrist. So I explained to him, well, I’m a fighter, and I had a fight, and I threw a spinning back fist and it broke. And the guy gave me his whole history on why I shouldn’t be throwing spinning back fists.”
“He still didn’t realize that I was a current UFC fighter that if you actually followed the sport, you would probably know, not only who I was, but that happened on a pay-per-view, on one of the biggest cards of year with Cormier and Stipe and he didn’t even know. So I was like, you don’t even know what’s going on in the UFC, let alone giving advice on what I should be throwing in the sport today.”