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LAS VEGAS – Paul Felder’s decision to walk away from MMA was a lot easier than what people might think.
Felder, a long-time UFC lightweight contender, announced his retirement during Saturday’s broadcast of UFC Fight Night 188. Felder (17-6 MMA, 9-6 UFC) put an end to a 10-year career in which he finished as a top-10 155 pounder. But despite being well positioned in the UFC official rankings, Felder didn’t see a path to the title at 37 years old and on a two-fight losing streak.
“I don’t think I’m going to get to the belt,” Felder told reporters at the UFC Fight Night 188 post-fight news conference. “I think this is the first time when I finally think after those two losses in a row, watching guys like ‘Jacare’ break their arm, watching guys like ‘Cowboy’ fight five more fights passed when I think they should, and I’m like, ‘I’m not going to be that guy.’ I won’t be that guy that fights past his expiration date, and I think it’s here. I think it’s a touch early, but I’d rather be a touch early than a touch late.”
Even though Felder got a more lucrative contract with the UFC following his last bout against Rafael Dos Anjos in November 2020 and he’s also the last man to defeat newly crowned champion Charles Oliveira, the decision to retire was not that difficult. Felder had two main reasons that let him know it was time to walk way.
“That spark that I need to fight, especially the way I fight, it just wasn’t there anymore,” Felder explained. “If I’m not even itching to get to training and get this stuff and getting fight offers. And the only reason it took this long is because I kind of gave everyone a chance to convince me. The UFC was really patient with me and called me several times. We had a conversation to see where my head was at, and we had this conversation twice recently, and the second one I called Sean (Shelby) and said, ‘I’m retiring this Saturday. I’m done.'”
The other factor that pushed Felder toward retirement were concerns for his health. Felder feels fine at the moment, but he knows injuries are a hard reality of the sport, and they can come at any time – in and out of the octagon.
“I don’t want to get hit in the head anymore,” Felder said. “I don’t have any major health concerns right now, but I’ve been in some battles, and I’ve been in more battles than I’ve been in the octagon that I’ve been inside the room. I used to spar really top-level guys for years, and I’m creeping up closer to 40 every day. I want to be able to do sports and do other things and do activities with my daughter and play with my dog and do stuff like that.”