Paul Felder: Conor McGregor will ‘always matter’ but the division is just ‘passing him by badly’


Conor McGregor continues to reign as the biggest superstar in mixed martial arts, but how he’ll fare against the best fighters in the world when he finally returns to the UFC remains to be seen.

Right now it’s tough to predict when the former two-division UFC champion will compete again considering he’s still not enrolled in the promotion’s anti-doping program, which will require at least six months of drug testing before he’s allowed to fight. He’s been recovering from a broken leg suffered in his last appearance in July 2021, and while he’s been consistently teasing his return to the cage, there’s still no exact timeline when he might fight again.

Paul Felder, retired UFC lightweight commentator and UFC color commentator Paul Felder believes that McGregor will draw an enormous audience no matter what. However, he isn’t convinced that it’ll happen in 2023..

” I think he will always matter as long as he is at least teasing of the possibility of a return. But that’s what worries my heart,” Felder said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “He’s so busy. “He’s busy filming Road House , and all the rest of that stuff. I don’t know if that is over or not. It’s tough.

“You’re on yachts. There are mansions. All this stuff is yours. You’ve got businesses that you’re working on. After a major injury, you’re now coming back to work. You take yourself out of the USADA testing pool. To get your place back, you’ll need to wait. It’s not clear. It’s not clear if we will see him in 2023.. To be totally honest .”

In the six years since defeating Eddie Alvarez to become the first ever UFC fighter to hold two titles simultaneously, McGregor has gone just 1-3 including back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier.

The lightweight division has changed dramatically in McGregor’s absence with a new champion in Islam Makhachev, a former champion in Charles Oliveira — who coincidentally wasn’t even competing at 155 pounds when the Irish star won the title in 2016 — and up and coming savages such as Mateusz Gamrot, Rafael Fiziev and Arman Tsarukyan.

In anticipation of his eventual return, Michael Chandler has been the most vocal fighter asking for the chance to welcome McGregor back to the UFC. Felder believes that’s probably the best possible option for McGregor, especially when examining other potential matchups for him at 155 pounds.

” I don’t mean to disrespect you, but I think that the division is passing him by very badly,” Felder stated. “I think it’s passing a lot of us. He is a bit older than me, but I think this generation of fighters will be able to compete against him.

” You don’t want Arman Tsarukyan, [Mateusz] Gamrot, or the young and hungry absolute maniacs who are climbing up the division .”

McGregor’s victory over Alvarez in the UFC two-division champion division was a setback for his momentum. He then left the sport after he pursued boxing against Floyd Mayweather, which he eventually won.

That single fight yielded McGregor the biggest payday of his career but Felder can’t help but wonder if it also prevented him from evolving alongside his peers in arguably the deepest division in the sport.

“Let’s say he hadn’t gone and done the [Floyd] Mayweather thing and just strictly stuck to MMA, I think he would have been a dangerous champion and done some damage for a long time,” Felder said. “But you take yourself out, you focus on another sport and you’ve got time away and then the pandemic hits and you come back and you get that leg injury.

“I just think it’s a lot going on to come back at the tippy top of the lightweight or welterweight division.”