Paul Felder (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Combat Press 2018 MMA Awards: Broadcast Analyst of the Year – Paul Felder

It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2018. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

Broadcast Analyst of the Year – Paul Felder

The task of providing commentary for an MMA event is unlike commentary in any “stick-and-ball” sport. The analyst must walk a fine line between over-analyzing and under-analyzing the action in the cage to the viewing audience. The vast majority of fans did not grow up in organized combat sports the way that most people grow up experiencing some level of one or more of the traditional stick-and-ball sports in recreational leagues. If the broadcaster glosses over the in-cage activities, he risks losing the segments of the audience that don’t understand that they are watching much more than a bar fight. If he goes too deep in his analysis, the audience will end up bewildered and leave the night without gaining the valuable knowledge that makes watching a fight exponentially more entertaining.

The UFC has long been the premier organization in MMA. The company’s broadcasters have largely been the best of the best. Longtime color commentator Joe Rogan is as synonymous with the sport as most fighters. In 2018, the UFC continued to deliver high-quality commentary with its growing team of broadcasters, most notably Michael Bisping and Paul Felder.


Bisping spent time in the UFC’s Fox studios in Los Angeles before becoming the middleweight champion at UFC 199. He continued to man the broadcast desk after retiring in 2018. In addition to his studio analysis, Bisping tried his hand in the commentary booth for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The transition was seamless, as “The Count” was able to provide his expert opinion and analysis in a fan-friendly way that impressed the UFC enough to add him to its 2019 rotation for events with new media partner ESPN. The best is certainly yet to come for the former champ as he begins the next chapter of his life in MMA.

Yet, there was one man who burst onto the commentary scene in a way that few, if any, have done before. The aforementioned Felder is not only a surging fighter in the UFC’s deep lightweight division, but also one of the best analysts the organization has to offer. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Felder has long known he wanted to perform under the lights after graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He planned on pursuing a career in acting before devoting his life to MMA. Felder, like Bisping, could first be seen on UFC Fight Pass calling the first season of DWTNCS, where he earned his place in the rotation of television commentators. Getting his televised start by calling the prelims for the UFC’s 2017 event in Pittsburgh, Felder drew praise from his partners in the booth, lead play-by-play announcer Jon Anik and bantamweight legend Dominick Cruz.

Felder provides total transparency in his commentary and is more vocal than most broadcasters in his critiques of other fighters. However, he does so in a manner that is not disrespectful of the combatants. His fight IQ is clear to see when “The Irish Dragon” enters the Octagon as a fighter, but it is also clearly on display when he is cageside calling fights. He isn’t without a humorous side, either.

One memorable back-and-forth came when Felder chatted with Justin Gaethje during the post-fight interview after Gaethje’s knockout of James Vick. Felder was initially slated to fight Vick. When the higher-ranked Gaethje was left without an opponent, Vick jumped at the chance and left Felder without a dance partner. When Felder asked the victorious Gaethje who he wanted to fight next, “The Highlight” jokingly said that he heard Felder wanted to fight him. Rather than using the opportunity to call out an opponent in front of a packed crowd and hundreds of thousands viewing the bout on television, Felder had a quick laugh and half-jokingly said it would be an honor to fight Gaethje. That was a marquee moment for Felder. He shone like a star as he balanced his professional obligation for the night without sacrificing the integrity and honesty that make him a fan-favorite in both the cage and broadcast booth.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of Felder’s 2018 was getting his first chance to call a UFC broadcast on pay-per-view. He served alongside Anik and Rogan in Madison Square Garden as the trio shared the booth while fans watched Daniel Cormier make his first heavyweight title defense against Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis. Felder must have impressed not only the fans, but the higher-ups at the UFC since he was then called upon to provide color commentary
for the promotion’s 25th anniversary show on Fox Sports 1 just a week later.

2019 is sure to be a momentous year for Felder as both a fighter and analyst. He makes his return to the cage against the aforementioned Vick in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 1 in February in Phoenix. He also starts the year off right as our Combat Press 2018 “Broadcast Analyst of the Year.”

Other finalists: Michael Bisping

Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2018 MMA Award winners.