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Paul Felder reacts to Stephen A. Smith’s comments, Conor McGregor taking aim at him during UFC 246 broadcast

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UFC 246: Pettis v Ferreira Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Paul Felder does his absolute best to always call fights down the middle whenever he’s serving as a color commentator during UFC broadcasts.

It was a little tougher during his most recent appearance, when he served as part of the broadcast team for UFC 246 that called Conor McGregor’s 46-second knockout of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

Afterward, ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith ripped Cerrone, saying he was “disgusted” with his performance and adding he felt like the fighter with the most bonuses in UFC history had quit in the fight.

Since that time, Smith has engaged in very public war of words with UFC color commentator Joe Rogan. Numerous other fighters have also had problems with his harsh take.

As part of the UFC 246 broadcast team, Felder had a problem with Smith’s commentary as well. But instead of ripping him for making uneducated statements, he would prefer the “First Take” co-host just learn more about the sport before taking shots at the athletes.

“It did bother me, and I think it bothered all of the MMA community who know who Donald Cerrone is,” Felder told MMA Fighting. “That would be like me showing up at a basketball game and talking about LeBron [James], saying the other team sucked, as opposed to LeBron and his team killing it and having a fantastic game.

‘Cowboy’ didn’t go in there to lose. He went in there to win and put on a show. I’ve trained with the guy and I’ve known the guy for years and years, and that is not in him to go ‘oh well, I didn’t have a good night, I’m just going to go and get beat up tonight.’ For anyone who’s never trained MMA, you just don’t understand how hard this sport is.”

Felder, who on Saturday fights Dan Hooker in the main event at UFC Auckland, believes Smith or any other analyst who doesn’t regularly cover MMA should first immerse themselves in the sport and understand the fighters who are competing before making such outlandish statements.

“That’s the only problem with other analysts coming into our sport — you’ve got to dive into it a little more and understand it,” Felder said. “It bothered me. But I don’t want to bash the guy too bad. He’s just got to understand the sport a little more before he says such harsh things about a guy who’s a legend.”

Prior to Smith’s post-fight comments, Felder got drawn into the main event himself after McGregor seemingly called him out afterward, addressing the “mouthy fools” talking about him prior to his win over Cerrone. Immediately after the fight ended, Felder said McGregor walked by the broadcast team and shouted, “F*ck you.”

Felder was taken back by the tirade, because at the time he couldn’t be certain that the former two-division champion was actually addressing him.

“I was there like what? Is he talking about me?” Felder said. “Some people are saying he was talking about me. Other people were saying he was talking about [Kamaru] Usman or [Jorge] Masvidal. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It got me plenty of attention even if it wasn’t meant towards me. It doesn’t matter. But we’re having fun with it.

“That’s one people are taking (it) so serious, coming at me. I’m like, guys, it’s a joke. I’m not fighting Conor right now, I’m fighting Dan Hooker. Relax.”

Regardless of Smith’s comments or McGregor possibly taking aim at him, Felder still loves every minute that he gets to call fights for the UFC with one glaring exception.

At UFC 246, Felder had to provide commentary for two fights involving his teammates — Anthony Pettis and Maycee Barber — and both ended up losing.

Even if his teammates are inside the cage, Felder vows to be impartial. But he said UFC 246 might be the last time he volunteers for that type of duty.

“I hate it,” Felder said about commentating for his teammates’ fights. “I hate every second of it. You’ll even hear me get quiet during some of those fights, and I’ll even get a little talking to, not in a bad way, but my producers will let me know when I’m maybe slipping a little bit, or not voicing as much. You’ve just got to try to step back a little bit and take yourself out of it. I’ve seen Anthony. I had a phone call with Maycee. It’s a tough thing to do, but it’s my job and they know that.

“I’m never going to say anything bad about them. I’m just calling what I see and they know that. I feel like I’m bad luck for these guys. When they win, I’m not there but when they come out on the wrong end of things, I feel like I’m commentating. So moving forward, as best as I can avoid it, I’m going to avoid any big fights for my teammates.”