London-bound Rory MacDonald (pictured alongside Bellator’s Scott Coker) insists he’s far from finished and aims to become a double-division champion in Bellator.
Interview: Nick Peet
Q. Why didn’t you get an immediate Bellator title shot like Benson Henderson?
A. That’s what I was pushing for and it was looking like that for a while. But it’s all about timing. This fight in London just happened to fit properly. This is the number one contender fight, so my next fight will be for the title once I win this one.
Q. How excited are you to fight a gunslinger like Paul Daley?
A. I’m very excited. It could not be a better opponent for my first appearance in Bellator. I’ll meet him in the center of the cage. It’ll be a bloody fight. Neither of us will back down. It will be a war. It’s the perfect fight. He’s a real banger so I won’t have to go looking for him that’s for sure.
Q. So you’re not preparing for a tactical battle?
A. No. I always prepare for war. I know no other way to approach a fight. Plus, Paul Daley is a warrior too. I’ve been watching him for a long time. With us both being welterweights at the top of our game it was inevitable that one day we would fight. When you throw in the fact that this fight is a title-contender match then that just makes it more exciting and means we’ll both be fired up even more. It’s going to be a great fight, while it lasts.
Q. How do your styles match up?
A. Obviously, Paul is a great kickboxer, he’s built his career and reputation on his ability on the feet. But I believe I’m more than a match for him in the standup. Then on the ground, well, it’s no secret that he’s weak in that department so that’s obviously something I can thoroughly exploit and I’d be crazy not to do that. But to be honest, I’m looking to send out a statement with my performance in this fight. I’m looking to put the rest of the Bellator roster on notice a little bit.
Q. What do you make of Michael ‘Venom’ Page?
A. I like him. He’s flashy and he entertains the fans. I met him for the first time in London and he’s pretty confident and comes across really well to the fans and the media. He’s certainly got all the attributes you need to succeed. But let’s face it, he’s not yet fought anybody of real note. People know who he is because of his flashy kicks and his antics but fighters know he’s being brought along slowly. He’s getting the right fights to build his profile slowly. But he’s nowhere near a title shot or anything like that. I really want to see him in a real fight, against a wrestler or a real grinder that won’t stand in from of him and let him tee off. I was hoping that test may have come on this London card, but it will come eventually as he’ll have to step up through the levels to get a title shot in the end. But honestly, you’ve got to reserve judgment until he’s fought a higher class of opponent, that’s when we will see what he’s really all about.
Q. Your nose was in bad shape after your fight with Robbie Lawler and it got busted up again against Stephen Thompson. Is it OK now?
A. It’s really feeling like back to normal now, having how many months I’ve given it off. I felt like everything’s gonna be fine by end of May, so that’s why I took this fight. I’m stepping up my training gradually and I’ve not rushed back. The time outside of the cage has been a pretty decent layoff now, but it’s allowed my body to fully heal and I’m feeling good.
Q. What do you say to people who think you’re not the same fighter since that Lawler defeat?
A. Nothing. I’m happy to be classed as the underdog again. It excites me to be back in this headspace. It’s nice to have the pressure off with a dip in expectations and I’m looking forward to seeing how the same people who think I’m washed up react when they see me fight again. I’m going to prove a point and show people that I’m back stronger and better than ever. I’ve come a long way since that fight, both in competition and out of it, so it’s going to be exciting to hear people’s opinions change again.
Q. You just didn’t get going against Stephen Thompson. What happened?
A. I rushed back too soon after the war with Robbie. I know it was like 11 months later, but I kept bashing up the nose in training and I just never gave it the time it needed to repair. I ended up rushing into the fight with ‘Wonderboy’ and it got busted straight away and hampered my performance again. It was after that fight I made the decision to take a long break, put the last couple of years behind me and look for this fresh start with Bellator.
Q. What can Bellator fans expect from you?
A. Violence. That’s all I’m planning on bringing, both at 170lb and 185lb if the opportunities come there. I’m going to implement my strengths and not worry about what anybody else brings to the table. Perhaps that’s something I suffered from when I was younger, showing guys a little too much respect. But I’m not the young prospect anymore. I’m something of a veteran and I intend to use that to my advantage, they should all be worried about what I bring to the cage, not the other way around.
Q. Are we going to see the rebirth of Rory MacDonald in Bellator?
A. Absolutely. I’m really desperate to get back into the cage and get going again. I’ve improved so much since last summer and it’s been really tough having to sit out and watch other guys fighting. But it’s been for the best in the long term regarding my career. The last year, I’ve had to take things slow, but I’m ready to get back in there and put my foot down again. I want to win the Bellator welterweight title, then I want to win the middleweight title also. I’m as aspirational as I ever was and I can’t wait to show the fans that in the fight and throughout the rest of my career.
*** This feature originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Fighters Only ***