How Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone helps undefeated Paul Felder stay grounded

Ryan McKinnell
Cagewriter

Life is good when you’re an undefeated fighter coming off a highlight-reel knockout -– just ask UFC lightweight Paul Felder.

Felder, 31, is six months removed from a stunning spinning back-fist knockout of Danny Castillo at UFC 182. The knockout, which was only Felder’s second fight in the company, earned the Philadelphia native a nice $50,000 performance bonus at the end of the night, and had the MMA world buzzing about his future potential.

Felder was all smiles as he fielded questions during a UFC on Fox 16 interview.

“It’s surreal, but I really think it helps,” admitted Felder when discussing all the extra attention. “I don’t think it makes it any better for you to sit in your hotel room and think about the fight. I’ve done all the work I need to do, now it’s time to enjoy this.”

Felder comes from Team Jackson-Winklejohn in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A main training partner and part-time mentor just happens to be another fighter who isn’t much for lollygagging during fight week: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

Paul Felder (R) knees at Danny Castillo in a lightweight bout at UFC 182. (Getty)
Paul Felder (R) knees at Danny Castillo in a lightweight bout at UFC 182. (Getty)

Cerrone’s notorious fight-week antics range from flying fighter jets, going scuba diving, and even bull riding. Truth be told, Cerrone may want you to think that he’s doing all this because he’s crazy – and, well, maybe he is, but there is a method to his madness.

Like Felder, Cerrone has no desire to sit in a hotel room and dwell on the upcoming fight. Instead, he uses the time to focus on remaining stress-free; a lifestyle that he has obviously imparted to his young protégé.

“I give him so many props,” Felder said. “He really kinda guided me – even still, he’ll call me, and in his way I can tell that he cares; [he makes] sure I’m doing things right and staying focused. He’ll come and beat me up when he can and that’s how it is.

“I look at him and I see how much success he’s gotten and getting the title shot; he does it his way. He fights when he needs to fight. When they call him, he’s ready.”

If staying ready is the name of the game, Felder has quite the test ahead of him, because his opponent Edson Barboza is a human highlight reel.

In fact, Barboza has been winning Fight of the Night bonuses since 2011, the very same year Felder turned pro – and the Brazilian now has four FOTN bonuses in total.

“Obviously the more and more you fight the more tape there will be on you. Barboza has been here for a little while and people can maybe look at his mistakes a bit more. Me, I’ve only had two fights in the UFC, but I’ve been in some really great fights in other organizations but nobody can really see them. So, I think that definitely plays in my advantage.”

Barboza has some nice KOs to his credit, as well. Most notably, a spinning kick that leveled Terry Etim at UFC 142. The knockout earned Barboza critical acclaim and the Brazilian received most media awards for “Knockout of the Year” in 2012.

Felder is very much aware of the dangers his opponent possesses. He’s familiar with the footage; he knows Barboza’s capabilities. This is a dangerous undertaking no matter how you look at it, even if Felder isn't conceding as much.

“I keep joking around and having a good time; this is awesome, I’m glad to be here and all that stuff, but I still got a fight on Saturday night,” he said. “This is fun and it helps boost my career and get me out to the public, but at the end of the day I’m going to get in the cage and throw down with Edson Barboza. Even talking about it right now is starting to get me a little pissed off – it has me thinking about it.

“I know that when I go in there – and him too – it’s dangerous. One of us could be waking up with the doctors talking to us there. So, it’s gotta be him before me; that’s the way it is. It’s going to be an exciting fight. I don’t plan on walking out of there without a few scratches.”

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