It was bound to get awkward eventually.
As soon as Rory MacDonald stepped into the UFC’s famed Octagon for the first time almost three years ago, it was obvious that the young Canadian possessed a tremendous amount of potential. As his UFC career progressed, it became apparent that “Ares” was going to find himself in the welterweight title picture before he hit his 24th birthday.
Whether it was his impressive showing in a loss to Carlos Condit in just his second Octagon appearance or his absolute destruction of Mike Pyle barely a year later, every fight fan has had that moment where they’ve realized “Wow, this Rory MacDonald kid is really, really good.”
For three full rounds, MacDonald completely had his way with “The Prodigy.” Throwing sharp jabs, connecting on a few beautiful elbows from inside the clinch and even “Ali-shuffling” his way around the cage, MacDonald essentially put on a clinic against one of the most popular and well respected fighters in the history of the sport.
Simply put, MacDonald proved that he’s for real during his beat down of Penn.
The problem is, he may have arrived a bit too soon.
While we all knew that “Ares” was going to be good, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone thought he was going to be this good, this quickly. While it’s never a bad thing to add a new contender to one of the UFC’s toughest divisions, it does become a problem when said contender has no intention of fighting the current champion.
MacDonald’s relationship with Georges St-Pierre has been well-documented. The fighters both fight out of the Tri-Star gym in Montreal under the tutelage of Frias Zahabi, they’ve trained together for most of the last few years and St-Pierre has publicly gone out and said that he believes that MacDonald is a future champion.
They’re friends and they have no intention of ever fighting each other inside the Octagon.
However, we’ve seen training partners swear they've wanted no part of each other in the past, only to see the relationship go up in flames when UFC gold gets thrown into the equation. Jon Jones and Rashad Evans seemingly went from best friends to bitter rivals once that elusive belt got between them. But while the situation between Jones and Evans seemed inevitable, it appears that St-Pierre and MacDonald share more of a Josh Koscheck-Jon Fitch (longtime teammates that have refused to fight) type of loyalty.
Unless they decide to split custody of Mike Ricci and part ways, there isn’t going to be a Canadian super fight for the belt any time soon.
This leaves Rory in a tough spot. He’s a championship-caliber fighter at just 23 years old, but St-Pierre is only 31 and is still sitting in the prime of his career.
MacDonald could just stay active and wait for St-Pierre to either get beaten or walk away, but when you look at the success that Anderson Silva is still having at 37 years old, it becomes harder to justify taking that chance.
Any way you look at it, MacDonald has one option if he absolutely refuses to fight GSP: middleweight. Since MacDonald clearly believes he is better suited to fight at 170, that’s not exactly an enticing option.
Right now, MacDonald is still a fight or two away from getting a serious look as a possible title contender, but it’s only a matter of time.
Eventually, he’s going to get the call from the UFC asking him to fight GSP for the title, and when that happens, he may have to make the tough choice.
Like every other fighter, MacDonald’s main goal is to become the best in the world. He may never get there if he refuses to fight St-Pierre.