It’s not been long since the UFC were finally able to move their 155lbs weight division on from Khabib Nurmagomedov at the top, but now the top ten is open to a new move too after Paul Felder announced his retirement.
‘The Irish Dragon’ was the last man to beat the new lightweight champion Charles Oliveira way back in 2017, with a second-round knockout via elbows enough to end the night early. But as Oliveira went on an unbeaten run over the course of the next three-and-a-half years, Felder’s career went the other way.
He fought just five more times, going 2-3 including his most recent fight against Rafael Dos Anjos which he took on just five days notice.
All five of the next fights went the distance, with the defeat to Dan Hooker in February 2020 proving to be one of the best fights of the year.
It was a war and one that showed all the absolute strengths that Felder had in his game. A wonderful striker, with a style that encompassed all eight limbs that a UFC fighter is blessed with when it comes to the world of MMA.
He was also a more than decent grappler, hanging on the ground with Oliveira in their fight to avoid chokes and while he only got one submission win himself in his career he is a Gracie purple belt. One of the most durable fighters around, in 24 professional fights he was only ever stopped once before the judge’s scorecards and that was by the doctor rather than an actual strike or submisison.
On top of all his physical gifts, he is also one of the better minds and personalities in the organisation. That much has been evident since he moved to the announcers desk in a part-time capacity and now it seems as though he’s going to move into that role full-time.
Speaking on the broadcast announcing his decision, he spoke of his wish to not hold up the division any more. Sitting in the top ten of the rankings, he was ahead of the likes of Islam Makhachev, Drew Dober, Gregor Gillespie and Thiago Moises – all of whom are looking to make a run towards glory.
Makhachev had even called Felder out for a scrap a couple of times, but it never came to fruition and now we know why.
With Felder admitting he didn’t have the ‘fire’ in his stomach any more when it came to competing, the division can open up more for people who are pushing harder than ever to move higher up in everyone’s thinking.
Makhachev recently got a win over Dober at UFC 259 and will meet Moises on July 17th, while Gillespie recently got back in the octagon with a mightily impressive knockout win over Diego Ferreira at UFC Vegas 26.
The chance is there now to pair up Dober with Gillespie and then get the division really rolling once again, with the rest of the higher ups potentially planned out already.
It’s goodbye inside the octagon for Felder, but it’s hello for the next batch of lightweights who have a chance now to step up in his absence. Thanks for the memories, now lets make some new ones.