Lightweight Paul Felder has gone from calling Sunday’s UFC main event to fighting in it, after he accepted a late offer to take on Rafael dos Anjos in Las Vegas.
The American, a colour analyst for the promotion, has agreed to step in against former champion Dos Anjos at the top of the card at UFC Fight Night after initial opponent Islam Makhachev withdrew because of an undisclosed injury. Felder, who last fought in February and said he was even considering retirement, takes the bout on five days’ notice.
"With everything going on in the world, the sad things going on in people's lives, losing their jobs and suffering … we just lost Alex Trebek to pancreatic cancer," Felder told ESPN. "I was like, ‘Man, you're still 35. You're young. You're in shape. Save the day. Let's go get paid, let's have fun. You're fighting a legend.' What do I have to lose?"
With a professional record of 17-5, Felder had built a two-fight win streak – including last year's UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi – but that came to an end in February when he lost a tightly contested, split-decision to Dan Hooker.
Meanwhile, Dos Anjos (29-13) has moved back to lightweight after recent struggles at welterweight, albeit against stellar opposition. The Brazilian-American, 36, has lost four of his past five, including January’s decision loss to Michael Chiesa. He held the lightweight crown in 2015 and 2016.
As for making weight, Felder said he shouldn’t have a problem getting down from “somewhere in the 170s” to 155 lbs given he has been training recently for a triathlon.
"This is an experiment. We're going to see,” he said. “My brain is fresh, my body is fresh. I'm not taking beatings in sparring like I normally do, but I'm still staying technically sharp and very fit.
“I know I’m nearing the end of my career soon. This, I think, it’s win-win for me because if I go in there and I can finish and beat [Dos Anjos], a former champ, then it gives me a lot of selling points to be getting these bigger fights which seem to be alluding me at the top five of the lightweight division here in the UFC.
“How do you not give me something big after this if I go in there after stepping up? And if it doesn’t go my way, then I saved the day. I’m going in there to try to win, so we’ll see.
“I say 50-50 [this is my last fight]. I was thinking about that. What a way to just be like, ‘Boom. Mic-drop.’ If I lose, then I might want to have to get back in there for one more. It might eat away at me just like the Hooker fight did. I was ready to move on and then it’s like, you still haven’t proven quite what I’m capable of.”