UFC has found a dance partner for former champion Rafael dos Anjos this weekend.
Paul Felder, one of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division, will step in on five days' notice and fight dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White told ESPN on Monday. Islam Makhachev, dos Anjos' original opponent, withdrew Sunday because of an undisclosed injury.
The bout will remain five rounds as scheduled and will still be contested at 155 pounds, White said. ESPN has Felder ranked as the No. 6 MMA lightweight fighter in the world.
Felder (17-5) has not fought since a hard-fought split-decision loss to Dan Hooker in February. After that bout, the Philadelphia native announced he'd consider retirement. Felder has been in a number of bloody fights, including a 2019 win over James Vick in which he suffered a collapsed lung.
"With everything going on in the world, the sad things going on in people's lives -- losing their jobs and suffering. We just lost Alex Trebek to pancreatic cancer," Felder said in an interview with ESPN's Ariel Helwani. "I was like, 'Man, you're still 35. You're young, you're in shape. Save the day. Let's go get paid, let's have fun. You're fighting a legend.' What do I have to lose?"
Felder won two straight before the Hooker loss and has won five of seven overall. Recently, Felder, who also works as a UFC analyst on broadcasts, said he wasn't retired but would take only fights that entice him.
"Any other time, this would have been impossible. But Paul has been biking and swimming like a mad man. He woke up this morning and his health data says he's peaking. The universe wanted this to happen," Felder's manager, Brian Butler, said.
Dos Anjos (29-13) is moving back to lightweight after a rough recent go at welterweight. The Brazil native has dropped four of five, though all against top welterweight fighters. Dos Anjos, 36, held the UFC lightweight title in 2015 and 2016.
"This is an experiment. We're gonna see. My brain is fresh, my body is fresh," Felder said. "I'm not taking beatings in sparring like I normally do, but I'm still staying technically sharp and very fit."