Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Hero’s Exit or Hero’s Welcome Awaits Paul Felder After UFC Vegas 14

Paul Felder has transformed into an MMA superhero inside the booth and right before our very eyes, but perhaps it was not until this week that this identity has been fully revealed and recognized.

We have become so accustomed to fighters on color commentary that it seems to just come naturally when these athletes excel at this second gig. Men like Daniel Cormier, Michael Bisping, and Dominick Cruz have made it appear perfunctory for fighters to crossover into the commentating table, seemingly grasping the timing, cadence, and intellect of broadcasters who have made it their life’s work to master the profession. In my humble opinion, no one has made the transition from fighting to commentating smoother than Paul Felder. As great as the other fighters have been in their color roles, Paul Felder sounds as if he has been doing it for 10 years and is a combination of polished, loose, and informative as a commentator. The Clark Kent side of Paul Felder is killing it in the booth, but when The Irish Dragon comes out of it, we see nothing short of the mythical.

On the same night that he fulfilled broadcast duties at UFC on ESPN 13, Paul Felder came through for close friend and teammate Jared Gordon, temporarily exiting the booth as if receiving a distress signal to help boost his buddy to victory. This flash of nobility revealed the contents of the Dragon’s heavy heart, which is emptied every single time he enters the Octagon.

Paul Felder has withstood some brutal punishment throughout his MMA career, but he always firmly stands his ground: scowling, menacing, and relentless. We have witnessed on numerous occasions throughout the years that blood does not stop him; perhaps it even empowers him. In fact, nothing has seemed to deter Felder after the war has begun. A broken arm? Nope, still coming forward and swinging until the final bell. How about a collapsed lung? Not only did this not ground the Dragon, but he continued to launch heat until victory.

Paul Felder’s superhuman heart has refused to let him be submitted or knocked out in his career. The lone TKO loss on his record is not a contradiction to that statement but further evidence of it, as it took a doctor to step in and stop his 2016 fight against Francisco Trinaldo after suffering a gruesome cut on his right eyebrow. Felder’s will has never wavered in the belly of competition, and he has shown as a commentator, a man, and a fighter, that while he is a true everyman, he is also MMA’s superman.

This week, another distress signal was sent to Paul Felder while he was on his way to the booth to commentate the UFC on ESPN+ 41 broadcast this weekend. So Paul Felder will shed the suit, tie, and headset he wears so well, and the Irish Dragon will swoop in to save the day as he fills in for Islam Makhachev to fight Rafael dos Anjos in the main event. And he will do so with an uncertainty as to whether or not he will ride off into the sunset or stick around a little bit longer, hoping to catch the elusive fiend he has been chasing for years: a hero’s welcome to the top of the division, with greater battles, bounties, and appreciation at his bloodstained doorstep.