Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
While he ultimately lost a split decision to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos after five grueling rounds, “The Irish Dragon” knows the cards were stacked against him from the second he accepted the offer to replace Islam Makhachev in the headline spot.
Not only did he take the fight with dos Anjos on five days’ notice but Felder hadn’t set foot in a MMA gym in the past four months. Add to that, he revealed during the UFC Vegas 14 post-fight show that all of his confidence about cutting down to lightweight ahead of the fight was really just promotional bluster because it was nowhere nearly as easy as he made it sound.
“I’m happy,” Felder said afterwards. “I took this fight — I took it on five days’ notice. Let’s be real, I had about three days to make weight and now that it’s all said and done, I can stop lying about things and be a little more honest. I said a little bit about it in the post-fight [interview] to Mike [Bisping] but the weight was more than what everybody thinks it was. I went for an hour and five minute run doing uphill gradient workout for my triathlon training and I weighed 178 [pounds] after the run without drinking anything during the run.
“I probably woke up on Monday morning at, at least 182, 183. So let’s be skimpy about it and say I was 180 on Monday. So from 180 on Monday to 156 and first one on the scale on Friday.”
Dropping 24 pounds over three days sounds just as brutal as you might imagine but Felder still hit the lightweight limit as the first fighter on the scale on Friday.
Even after rehydrating and getting some food back in his body, the Philadelphia native was still feeling the effects of the weight cut when he woke up on Saturday morning with the fight just hours away.
“I just went with a black belt and a former champion on the ground and didn’t eat much ground and pount, let’s be honest,” Felder said. “Arm triangle was close. I was a little nervous there. He did hurt me to the liver once and a lot of that had to do with the weight cut.
“I woke up today and I was like if he catches me good to the liver, I might go down. Duke’s like ‘well just counter the hell out of him and we’ll be all right.’”
Following a loss to Dan Hooker in February, Felder hinted at his potential retirement although he had largely walked that back in the months following that event. Still, Felder hadn’t been scheduled for another fight until he accepted the short notice opportunity to face dos Anjos.
To hear him tell it, Felder was almost tuned out from his own fighting career but the 25-minute war with dos Anjos served as the ultimate wake-up call that he’s still got plenty of fight left in him.
“Listen ideally, I wished that I would have done a little more, right?” Felder said. “I was talking to Sean Brady and the guys in Philly and obviously Duke [Roufus], where I go and do my camps and I’ve had a good heart-to-heart with my team, both in Philly and Milwaukee this week. I needed to be inspired again.
“This sport breaks you. It’s tough. You guys know that. Everybody sees what this does. I see it day in and day out when I’m calling these fights. I know what the athletes go through. I needed something to motivate me and when this call came through and me and [Brian] Butler, my manager, talked about it, I talked to Christine, my girlfriend, I thought of all the things that are going wrong and I get this opportunity and here I am. You know I lost but I feel like if I had done more, I could have won that fight.”
If retirement was on his mind after the loss in February, Felder says that couldn’t be further away from his thoughts this time around. Instead, he sounds ready to commit to another fight as soon as his body is recovered and ready to go again.
“I’ll be back soon,” Felder promised in closing.