UFC lightweight contender Justin Gaethje notched a second-straight first-round TKO at UFC Philadelphia last week against Edson Barboza. During a post-fight interview on ESPN+, he was respectfully challenged by fellow 155-pound contender Paul Felder, who was part of the night’s broadcast team alongside Karyn Bryant and Tyron Woodley.
“I just want to say and throw my name in the hat,” Felder told Gaethje, who was standing mere inches next to him. “If none of them guys are lining up to fight you, brother, I’m putting it down here right now.
“You know that there’s some tough dudes in here, and I feel like eventually – whether it’s now or whether it’s later – me and you are gonna put on a show for these fans. And I say that, honest to God, in the most respect(ful) way possible. Because I enjoy watching you fight, brother.”
Albeit being a cordially phrased challenge, Gaethje was not pleased with Felder.
“I just think it was an unprofessional move on Paul’s part,” Gaethje said on recently The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting). “I think he knows that. He’s there in a different status than me. I was a fighter that night and he was an employee or a staff member, and I was just really caught off guard. I didn’t even know what was happening until, like, the second time, I think when (ESPN broadcaster) Karyn (Bryant) brought it up and I was like, ‘oh.’ I bet that was probably like 17 minutes from the moment I stepped out of the ring, probably less than that … at least 15, whatever.
“But dude, I’m telling you, I hadn’t seen the fight,” he continued. “From the moment they tell you that you have about four minutes until you’re going to go into that hallway to make that walk to the Octagon, that’s the last time you get to kinda process anything. And then after that, win or lose, it’s over. You can’t process anything. It’s a million miles an hour, a thousand words a second, you’re trying to take in everything, trying to not miss specific things, trying to do interviews, trying to make the decisions that you need to make to not sound like a fool.
“It’s some crazy emotions that you’re running through, so you have to control your emotions and all that stuff.”
The number nine-ranked Felder already expressed his desire for a “war with Justin Gaethje as soon as possible” during his Octagon interview with Jon Anik at UFC Phoenix in February. He also defended his actions during post-fight interview at UFC Philadelphia, right after receiving backlash from fans.
“I feel like what I did was more respectful, because I mentioned his name,” Felder told MMAjunkie in a previous interview. “His name has come out of my mouth when he’s not around, so when he’s there, it would be unprofessional and cowardly of me to not say the same thing to his face that I had already said on camera with the UFC.”
“I get where Justin is coming from. It’s just everybody else that needs to shut the f—k up,” he added. “Justin is a fighter. He just knocked out an opponent – I might be like, ‘Hey, let me have my moment.’ That’s fine for him.