Rory MacDonald is one of the biggest acquisitions by Bellator MMA to date. Although he went out on a two-fight losing streak, it was to the champ, and the #1 challenger. And one of the fights was the 2015 fight of the year.
MacDonald turned pro at 16, is just 27, and sees a decade or more ahead, and room to improve. The next six fights, at least, will be in Bellator.
After seven years in the UFC, MacDonald was balanced in his assessment of his former bosses, explaining that he was grateful for the opportunities, and as well providing an elite fighter’s perspective on what could have been better.
“You know what, the UFC has done a lot for me, and I’m not going to be one of those guys who s***s all over them and says they’re doing this, they’re doing that,” said MacDonald, as transcribed by Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “They’ve done a lot for my career. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am on the bargaining side of things.
“They put in the position to do this, to build my career. They’ve given me many opportunities, so I would’ve been happy to go back with them. But at the same time, I also believe in the promoters and the company, in Bellator. I believe in what they’re doing, building a strong roster, and I have a lot of faith in them and the direction they’re going towards.”
“They’re straight-up guys. They’re easy to talk to, they’re approachable, and they have their ears open. They don’t just have their plan and tell the fighters to just do what they want. They want to hear what the fighters want to do.
“They want to be creative, do something new. They don’t want to just push their agenda, so to say. They want to listen and be partners almost, do this together and build something unique. So even though it’s new, it’s already been awesome. I’ve talked to the head guys over at Bellator and Spike in one day more than I have in a whole seven years with the UFC.”
MacDonald was critical of The Reebok Deal, but is one of the few fighters with a direct Reebok sponsorship, and hopes to maintain it.
“I’m sponsored by Reebok and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me,” he said. “They do a lot for me on a daily basis and they’ve actually been great. They actually want to come into the sport and make a positive effect. And you know what, they came in with not much time to work, putting together the stuff that they got going on in the cage right now. But I think in the long run, they have their mind in the right place. They want to do good things for the sport, be a part of it for a long time, and I appreciate that.
“I just think the UFC went about it the wrong way. They didn’t really think of the fighters, I don’t think, even though I think they’re trying to make it out like they were. There was no discussion. It was just, okay, this is happening and deal with it, kind of thing. And that’s not very respectful. I don’t think that was a very good move. I don’t appreciate that, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it really played the biggest factor in my decision. It was more the numbers and the respect I get on a daily basis, the opportunities on the horizon that Bellator was believing in and giving me. They’re working with me, building my brand and making money, and making good fights and making a great promotion.”
So will Reebok stick with him MacDonald, now that he is fighting for a rival promotion? Curiously, the fighter did not know.
“I hope so,” he said. “I guess we’ll see. I still think that they have a great opportunity because of all the things that I’m going to be doing outside of the cage with Bellator, a lot of shows and good promotion. I think they could reap the benefits of that as well, not just reaching the UFC’s market. That’s a discussion I need to have with them.”
In any case, testing his worth on the free market was an excellent experience overall thus far for the fighter.
“I was excited about the whole thing because it was time that I get paid, and I knew what I was worth,” he said. “Win or lose, I know 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 that I’ve even reached my potential. There’s a long road ahead in my career, and I really don’t even think that I’ve shown anything yet.
“I got another 10, 15 years ahead of me in this game. I think people have seen me for a long time at the top getting a lot of attention, so they think that I’m old-school and I’m on my way out. But they’re going to be very surprised when they see me down the road in 10 years still at the top of the game.”