On May 19th at the SSE Arena in London will see the return of the ‘Red King’ Rory MacDonald in his debut for Bellator MMA. A perennial contender during his time in the UFC and being ranked 2nd in the Welterweight division at the time of his departure, MacDonald is the biggest coup signing for Bellator. I recently spoke with Rory about his upcoming fight and the reasons for departing the UFC for Bellator.
Many thought he would immediately fight for the Welterweight title in Bellator, however after signing for the company in August last year, he is taking his first fight against British knockout artist Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley. I wondered why Rory hadn’t yet fought in Bellator “Basically I took this long time off to heal a broken nose that I had reinjured over and over again in the previous year before my last fight”. “It was a hard time to be off obviously just because I wanted to be busy, it’s not where I wanted to be at 27 years old, you know feeling at my best, but the time off gave me a lot of time to reflect and work on things. I just really feel it did me a good thing” Rory said regarding whether it was a tough decision to take that time off.
“In my career, it’s financial. That’s number one. I made it clear going into my contract negotiations that I was going to go to the highest bidder, but there are other reasons that made Bellator attractive.”
I wondered what we might be seeing from Rory in the fight considering his time off gave him chance to work on things “I really do think it’s going to be a new and improved version. I feel hit a groove recently.” MacDonald continues “I’ve really worked on my strengths. For a long time now I was working on my weaknesses and things that I had no education on. But now I feel I’ve focussed on my strengths and put that into fighting.”
So what are the strengths Rory believes will win him the fight against Daley? “People have always said that I’m well rounded, but for the last few years I’ve been a kickboxer it seems in my fights. I have to get out of that habit,” “I’m going to make them worry about the whole plethora of mixed martial arts.” Discussing the fight further Rory states “I’m going to have Paul worried about my striking and takedowns. I’m not going to be shooting from outside and letting him keep takedown defences. I’m going to make sure he worries about everything, it’s something you are going to have to watch and see. I can’t put it into words exactly my style, but I’m sure everyone will enjoy it.”
Rory makes it clear to me that he wants to make a statement in this fight and finish Daley so he can clear the way for a Middleweight title fight (as the Welterweight title is already on the line) at Madison Square Garden, New York in June on the second Bellator pay per view event. Does he want to be a two weight champ? “Yeah. Absolutely” he says confidently.
Why is it then that Rory would leave the UFC for Bellator? “In my career, it’s financial. That’s number one. I made it clear going into my contract negotiations that I was going to go to the highest bidder,” “But there are other reasons that made Bellator attractive,” “They have a lot of other attractive components about it. The way they run their show, what they are willing to do to promote me compared to say a UFC is at the moment. I don’t think the new management is running it very well in my opinion” he states. Why though does he feel that way? “I don’t know its just a strange dynamic going on over in the UFC, fights that they are picking now. I’m not a big fan of it.” Which fights in particular? “The Woodley, Thompson rematch didn’t make sense to me. I don’t know. There are a few matchups that I just don’t get and i don’t think the fans really got when there are so many other great fights to put together”
Speaking of Woodley, how does he feel that an opponent he beat is now the champ and he can’t get that fight back? “It used to bother me, but now I know how much I’m going to be making at Bellator I’m not so worried about it as much,” he says. Touché.
Does he see Bellator soon competing with the UFC for top promotion? “I do. It might take another year or maybe two until people really start to notice or see the real competition of it. The UFC has the stronghold at the moment but at the rate that they are letting things slip through their fingers, it could happen faster than I think. Bellator has really been on point. If they continue like this and the UFC continue with the mistakes that they have been doing then things could really change for us.”