Paul Felder might be the nicest guy outside the cage but when he steps into a fight to do battle with an opponent, it’s do or die every time.
It’s that exact mentality that the Philadelphia native has tapped back into while preparing for his return to action against James Vick at the debut UFC Fight Night card on ESPN this Sunday night from Phoenix.
Now it’s not like Felder has ever lost that killer instinct when he’s competing but in recent months fans of the sport have seen a much different side of him after becoming part of the UFC’s broadcast team.
As a color commentator, Felder always exerts a certain level of excitement, knowledge for the sport and professionalism that’s required to do the job the right way when calling the fights.
Felder has fallen in love with that role but as much as he enjoys sitting at the desk behind a microphone, he never wants anybody to forget why he got involved in this sport in the first place.
“The reason I got into commentating and all this other stuff is I know how to fight,” Felder explained when speaking to MMAWeekly. “I put on a show. People like to see me fight. I look to get finishes and I like to put on a dominant performance every time.
“I just want to get back in there and remind people why I’ve been a top guy in this division for a while. It’s been a minute and my last fight was at welterweight so it’s time to get back on top.”
Fighting is something that’s been ingrained in Felder since he was a kid first discovering martial arts through taekwondo and karate.
Now fighting and martial arts don’t always go hand-in-hand and that’s something he had to learn over time. Because as much as Felder enjoyed learning martial arts, he absolutely loved to fight.
“I didn’t wrestle since I was seven years old. I didn’t come from a jiu-jitsu background where I can pull guard and throw up some insane submission. I’ve got all those skills but just not to the specialist level. I’ve just always been tough,” Felder explained.
“I was the kid who got kicked out of karate tournaments cause I was kicking kids in the body and the head too hard and then getting into fights with their parents. That’s just been who I am.”
If that reaction makes Felder sound like the kind of guy who just feasts on emotion when he’s fighting, you’d be exactly right about him.
In fact, he says that thriving off of that seething animosity he feels when he steps into a cage with an opponent trying to beat him is exactly what always leads to his best performances.
“I’ve got emotion behind what I do,” Felder said. “When I’m in there, it’s a fight. You’re fighting me. I treat it like it’s a fist fight.
“It’s not just a sport. It’s not just athletics to me. Of course, those things all come into play but when that cage door closes, it’s me and another dude who is trying to stop me from making my money.”
From that explanation, it might appear that Felder is just a prizefighter searching for his next paycheck but that’s not entirely accurate when it comes to his reasons for competing.
“I’ve always wanted to win,” Felder stated. “My mom still talks about it — she’s like ‘it’s a shame there’s not always a trophy or a belt on the line when you fight cause even when you were a kid, you always wanted that freaking trophy, you wanted to get the prize for winning’. Now that’s just bonuses and money.”
As he prepares for his fight this weekend against Vick in the co-main event on ESPN, Felder doesn’t have a bad word to say about his opponent.
In fact, the two of them chatted it up in a friendly conversation at the UFC athlete retreat that took place just after the new owners at Endeavor took over in 2016.
Felder holds no ill will towards Vick except for the fact that they are going to face off inside that Octagon and only one of them can walk away as the winner.
So Felder will be cordial to Vick during fight week and he’ll gladly touch gloves with him before the contest begins, but once that referee steps out of the way and tells them to engage, it’s a war and only one man can be left standing.
“I go out there to end my opponent’s night as quickly as possible and then I wish them nothing but the best afterwards,” Felder said.
“I’m not an asshole about it but when we’re in there and we’re fighting, I’m trying to f—k you up. Period.”