UFC 242: Paul Felder itching to put the record straight against Edson Barboza in Abu Dhabi

The American lightweight aims to avenge loss to Brazilian four years ago when they meet in the co-main event

Paul Felder says his loss to Edson Barboza in four years ago still plays on his mind. He will get the chance to avenge that loss when he meets the Brazilai in the co-main event of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National
Paul Felder says his loss to Edson Barboza in four years ago still plays on his mind. He will get the chance to avenge that loss when he meets the Brazilai in the co-main event of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

Although more than four years have elapsed, the defeat still gnaws at Paul Felder.

The American lightweight suffered his first career loss back in July 2015, beaten in a unanimous decision to Edson Barboza at UFC on Fox 16. At the time, Felder was only making his way in UFC, but that doesn’t dampen his discomfort now.

Fortunately, this weekend, he has a chance to put it right. On Saturday, the Philadelphia native meets in the Octagon Barboza once again, in a bout that shares top billing – on paper at least – with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title unification fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

To Felder, 35, this co-main event matters even more. Revenge, albeit in professional terms, is an offer too good to pass up.

“Four years ago I lost to Edson,” he said. “I was young, I was green; it was only my third UFC fight. This is my 13th. So I think it’s time to show what I’m really made of.”

Despite the previous result, there exists no ill feeling between combatants, who have worked together in the intervening period under the tutelage of respected coach Mark Henry. Patently, they respect each other, with one guy simply determined to finally put to bed that initial result in Chicago.

“It’s been on my mind for four years,” Felder said. “It’s one of those things where we’ve trained together, we’ve known each other. There’s no bad blood. This is about martial arts for me: this is why I live this lifestyle; this is why I do what I do. It’s not because I like to hurt other people. It’s because I love competition and I love living the warrior way.

“And that’s how Edson is. And I promise that’s exactly what we’re going to put on display on Saturday night. It’s a war of martial arts and integrity. That’s what this sport needs to be all about. Just like Khabib and Dustin, these guys are classy. That’s how it should be.”

For many, Felder has made the greater improvements since the original Barboza battle. He has triumphed in six of his nine fights since, including the decision victory against James Vick in February, when Felder took the spoils even though he sustained a punctured lung.

In contrast, Barboza lost last time out to Justin Gaethie, by knockout in March, meaning once one of the most fearsome fighters in the game has now registered a single victory from his past four outings – a run that includes defeat to Nurmagomedov two years ago.

“It’s easy for me to say I’m so different, but I am,” said Felder, who is 16-4 in his career overall and 8-4 in UFC. “You see from that fight to where I’ve been in my last few fights: I’m not even the same person. I just feel so much more well rounded and comfortable in there. I don’t feel pressured to have to put on a show like I used to back then.

“When I fought Edson the first time I felt I had to show I was worthy of this spotlight and getting this big fight against such a top-ranked guy early in my career. At times it didn’t make any sense. I don’t do that crap any more.

“I’m just really excited to be here. We’re so excited to be here and bring this over here again. And to be the co-main event spot, with Khabib headlining, it’s massive, man. I just want to get this one back so bad.”

Edson Barboza during the UFC Open Workout session at Yas Mall on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National
Edson Barboza during the UFC Open Workout session at Yas Mall on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Barboza, at 33 a mainstay of the division, is determined to leave The Arena on Saturday having not let that happen.

“He’s more experienced since that first fight, his first loss,” said the Brazilian, whose career stands at 20-7. “But I've gained experience, too. I’ve had plenty of fights: I fought Khabib, [Tony] Ferguson, [Anthony] Pettis, Goethe - all the best guys in the world.

“And Felder’s definitely one of the best in the world. It’s going to be a great fight. I’m excited.”

Updated: September 5, 2019 06:17 PM

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