From UFC to 70.3: Paul Felder to learn from Lionel at Oceanside

News Director

Former UFC star Paul Felder will look to learn from friend Lionel Sanders when he continues his triathlon journey at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside on Saturday.

The 37-year-old retired MMA ace, now a colour commentator for UFC, raced a number of times over the 70.3 distance in 2021 after first becoming fascinated by the sport through Sanders and his epic story.

In 2022 the main date on Felder’s swim/bike/run calendar is the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship at St George in October. First though he kicks off his year in California, and he’ll use race week to observe how the pros behave by shadowing ‘No Limits’.


Paul Felder on Oceanside

He appeared on one of Lionel’s famous race week videos to talk about his relatively new pursuit, admitting: “A little bit nervous. This is the first race that there’s been a pro field also racing at the same time as the age groupers and stuff. I haven’t been a part of one of those yet.

“I’m very excited about that but also you feel everybody’s game is gonna be elevated quite a bit, even down to the age groupers, when those pros are there starting things off.

“You want to kind of put your best foot forward – so, anxious. It’s the first ocean swim, so a little nervous.”

Felder, who was known as ‘The Irish Dragon’ during a UFC career which brought him a 17-6 record in the Octagon, says he is in the shape of his life as he prepares for the big race on Saturday.


‘The Irish Dragon’ definitely ready

“I’m definitely ready, I’m in shape – this is by far the fittest that I’ve ever been, even probably if you calculate getting ready for fights. It’s definitely a different fitness but think I’m the most in shape I’ve ever been in.

“My running’s on point, my biking’s on point, the swimming is coming along nicely – but definitely ready.”

Felder, who was speaking ahead of travelling to California, cannot wait to watch Sanders up close to learn from how an elite professional prepares for a big race.

“I think being able to see a guy who’s at the top of the sport the way Lionel is is gonna help – I’m gonna learn a lot and that’s what I’m looking forward to,” explained Felder.


Learning from Lionel

“It’s the first race of the season for all of us. He’s got a lot more on the line because he’s a professional obviously – he’s got the PTO rankings and all that kind of stuff that he’s worried about, and making money.

“Whereas for me I want to do the best that I’ve done yet. It’s still early in the season and I’ve still got the Championship in St George in October. So really I just want to go and enjoy this one and have fun and learn a lot from all of these guys. But more in particular from Lionel than anybody.

“I’m gonna be in the same hotel, so I’m gonna kind of see how the best in the world handles race week and I’ve got a lot of questions coming for the guys.”

No fights this weekend

Felder is happy to give MMA fan Lionel some fighting tips in the future, but he is disappointed there will be no bouts for them to watch together this weekend.

“He (Lionel) knows he doesn’t want to spar on race week – we’ll have to do that another time. I’m definitely gonna show him some things.

“It’s a shame it’s a weekend where there’s no fights – it works out so I don’t have to work and I get to be there racing in Oceanside.

“But It would have been cool if there was also a fight night on Saturday because we race on Saturday. Normally we’re all waking up 3.30, 4 in the morning on Sunday to go to the start. Whereas this one, we could have raced, crushed ourselves and then been able to enjoy some food and watched some fights. But of course, UFC, is off this weekend so that sucks.

“That would have been pretty cool to actually watch a fight with him and spill my knowledge after he’s spent a couple of days holding my hand through a race week.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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