Earlier this year, while working commentary for UFC Vegas 27, lightweight contender Paul Felder officially announced his retirement from MMA. The move was not entirely unexpected as Felder had previously hinted at retirement following a split decision loss to Dan Hooker in 2020, and after weighing it all out, Felder said that ultimately he felt “that spark that I need to fight … it just wasn’t there anymore.” Well, that spark may be coming back, or at least, it could.
Last month, talking with fellow UFC commentator Brendan Fitzgerald, Felder admitted to missing the sport and contemplating a possible return, and this week, speaking with MMA Junkie, Felder outlined two scenarios that could draw “The Irish Dragon” out of retirement.
“There’s two scenarios,” Felder said. “Obviously the ‘money fight’. For some reason if Conor (McGregor) just hates my guts again and wants to fight me, OK sure. I’ll throw on the old MMA gloves to get back in there to change my life and teach him a lesson, but other than that, no. The other one was – Sean Brady actually texted me the other day and he’s like, ‘Would you come back out of retirement for a fight at the Wells Fargo with all of us?’
“Now we’ve got eight Philly guys or at least close to it (in the UFC). (Andre) Petroski, the Daukaus brothers, Jeremiah Wells, (Pat) Sabatini, Brady, Bill Algeo is from the Pennsylvania area, right outside of Philly. That would be tough to turn down, but I don’t know when they’re coming back to the Wells Fargo and who would I fight – I don’t know.”
While the McGregor scenario seems unlikely, the UFC returning to Philadelphia is more a question of “when” not “if.” The promotion has not been to Philadelphia since 2019, a Fight Night event headlined by Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza, but with the emergence of Sean Brady as a bona fide welterweight contender, that is likely to change. Following his win over Michael Chiesa earlier this month, Brady called for the UFC to return to Philly in 2022, which means Felder’s comeback scenario could be right around the corner.
Felder, who is no longer in the USADA testing pool, would ostensibly be required to formally re-enlist with the company and have six months of testing before returning to competition, in accordance with Article 5.7.3 of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy. However, given that Paul only retired in May and has clean tests dating back to earlier this year, it’s possible the UFC could grant an exemption to the six-month written notice rule, especially since this would appear to be a one-off return for Felder and not a full resumption of his career. If not though, and Felder ultimately never competes again, the “Irish Dragon” is content with his life outside of fighting and his work in the commentary booth which keeps him connected to the sport.
“It’s one of the reasons I was able to retire early,” Felder said. “I have five more fights at least physically in me, I just – it’s not there in the fire, it’s not in the belly anymore, so it was time. It’s been a great four years, and I feel like I’m just getting started with that and getting back to the acting eventually a little more as well hopefully.”
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