On Monday afternoon, Ariel Helwani returned to our screens with the latest episode of The MMA Hour. One of this episode’s many big-name guests was Bellator lightweight champ Rory MacDonald, who joined Helwani to discuss his time with the UFC and his move to Bellator MMA.
According to the former welterweight title contender, nothing was certain after the final fight of his contract—a June loss to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
“I knew that we were going to go into a tough negotiation period. I didn’t know that the UFC wasn’t going to match me. I had my doubts about the whole thing but, at the end of the day, I didn’t really know how it was going to go.”
Despite the uncertainty of his future, however, MacDonald said he found the process very exciting.
“I was excited about the whole thing because it was time that I got paid,” he explained on the show. “I knew what I was worth. Win or lose, I know what I bring a lot to the table. I’m one of the youngest and brightest fighters in the division and I really don’t think I’ve ever reached my potential. There’s a long road ahead in my career and I don’t think I’ve shown anything yet.”
Though his immediate future will now unfurl in Bellator, MacDonald clarified that he doesn’t harbor much in the way of ill will towards the UFC.
“The UFC has done a lot for me,” he told Helwani. “I’m not gonna be one of those guys that sh*ts all over them and says ‘they’re doing this, they’re doing this.’ They did a lot for my career and without them I wouldn’t be where I am on the bargaining side of things. They put me in the position to do this and build my career. They’ve given me many opportunities. I would have been happy to go back with them, but at the same time I also believe in the promoters and the company at Bellator.”
During his interview with Helwani, MacDonald explained that one of the things he’s appreciated most in his early dealings with Bellator has been the attitudes of CEO Scott Coker and his staff.
“They’re straight up guys, they’re easy to talk to,” he said, “They’re approachable and they have their ears open. They don’t just have their plans and tell the fighters to do what they want. They want to hear what the fighters want to do and get creative. They don’t just want to push their agenda.”
“Even though it’s new, it’s already been awesome,” he continued.
When asked whether his move had anything to do with the UFC’s controversial uniform deal with Reebok, MacDonald went on to clarify some of his statements from a recent Bellator conference.
“I spoke about this at the press conference with Bellator and I think I need to clarify something because I think a lot of people took it the wrong way. I’m sponsored by Reebok, and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. They do a lot for me on a daily basis and they’ve actually been great.”
“I just think the UFC went about [the deal] in the wrong way,” he elaborated. “They didn’t really think of the fighters I don’t think, even though they make it out like they are. There was no discussion. It was just ‘ok this is happening, deal with it’ and that’s not very respectful. That’s not a good move. I don’t appreciate that.”
Having braved the perilous world of free agency, MacDonald might now seem like a useful resource for other fighters interested in testing their value on the market. Yet the Canadian welterweight was quick to stress that no two fighters’ situations are the same, and that individuals should take careful consideration before embarking on free agency.
“Everybody has a unique position and they have to analyze their own position,” he explained. “For me, it was a smart move. I can’t say that for everybody, everybody is in different stages of their career. Build your brand, make a name for yourself, have good fights, put good performances on, and then maybe test it out, but I can’t speak for everyone.”
Safe to say, however, that MacDonald is feeling good about his move.
Yes, I do [feel like I’m being paid what I’m worth],” he told Helwani. “I feel very happy with what I have.
Of course, MacDonald’s debut with the organization isn’t likely to occur for some time, as he’s keen on healing up some nagging injuries before he steps back onto the canvas.
“I want to make sure my nose is completely healed,” he said on the show. “I didn’t do that last year after the Robbie fight, I was too eager to get back in there are and start punching people and get into sparring matches and stuff. I didn’t go about it smart.”
When his nose is healed up, however, MacDonald has grand designs for his Bellator career.
“My plans for Bellator are to fight for the 170-pound belt,” he said. “I’m going to take that belt off [Andrey] Koreshkov, and then I’m going up to 185 lbs. and I’m taking that too. I’m very focused on this, I want to be a two division champion.”