Paul Felder (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

UFC 223: The Mystery of Paul Felder and the NYSAC

Now that UFC 223 is in the books, it’s safe to say it was the craziest week leading up to a fight in UFC history.

Whether it was Tony Ferguson having to pull out of the highly anticipated main event against Khabib Nurmagomedov on April Fool’s Day, the rampage that Conor McGregor and friends went on and the consequences that subsequently followed, or the very strange weigh-in-day fiasco where the UFC cycled through four different fighters for the spot opposite Nurmagomedov in the headliner.

It was exhausting just to sit at home and try to make sense of all the breaking news and rumors that kept populating the social-media feeds. It’s impossible to even imagine the pressure UFC President Dana White and the rest of the company’s shot-callers were under. And just when things looked as if they were getting straightened out, boom, another bombshell.


Ultimately, as we all now know, the UFC landed on Iaquinta as Nurmagomedov’s opponent for the undisputed lightweight title. Since the weigh-ins had long since passed, Iaquinta, who tipped the scales at just 0.2 pounds over the championship limit of 155 pounds, was deemed ineligible to win the title if he somehow topped Nurmagomedov. Meanwhile, Nurmagomedov could take the belt if he won.

The UFC did have some other options for the fighter who was going to replace Max Holloway after Holloway was deemed unfit to compete prior to weigh-ins on Friday. The first of these names to explode across the Twitter-verse was former lightweight king Anthony “Showtime” Pettis.

The talk surrounding that potential fight was squashed almost immediately, when it was reported that Pettis requested a much higher payday and the UFC didn’t oblige. As a matter of fact, the organization reportedly countered with an even lower offer. It’s not fair to blame Pettis for this fight falling apart. Quite frankly, not many guys would’ve even considered fighting the undefeated Dagestani smashing machine on one day’s notice, pay raise or not.

After the Pettis fight fell apart, all the momentum was building quickly toward Paul Felder as Nurmagomedov’s opponent in the title affair. So, why did the New York State Athletic Commission decide Felder couldn’t compete for the title? After all, he was the only eligible replacement that made the championship weight of 155 pounds on the nose.

It was first reported that the NYSAC had refused to let Felder fight Nurmagomedov due to the lack of an arbitrary ranking number next to the Roufusport fighter’s name. If this is indeed true, then the rankings have officially begun to do more bad than good. Does the NYSAC even understand how the UFC rankings are compiled?

Oh, but the plot thickens.

MMA Fighting spoke with NYSAC executive director Kim Sumbler regarding the Felder ordeal to help add some clarity to an otherwise messy situation.

“Paul Felder never came into play,” explained Sumbler. “He was never presented to me as an opponent, ever. His name was talked around the commission room with other fighters, other managers and other people, but the UFC never presented me Paul Felder as a potential opponent for Khabib.”


It’s doubtful that we’ve heard the last of this. It’s not likely that the NYSAC conspired to keep Felder out of the lightweight title fight, but if Sumbler speaks the truth, then there’s something fishy going on here.