Michael McDonald on a Mission from God and That Mission Isn't About UFC Titles
UFC bantamweight title contender Michael McDonald is not your average, every day fighter.
It's not to say he doesn't wake up every morning and put his pants on one leg at a time and tie his shoes like everybody else in the world, but he approaches fighting with a much different mindset than almost any other competitor currently signed to the UFC. He certainly has a different approach that any title challenger currently up for a shot at the gold.
Despite the fact that McDonald at 22 years of age is about to battle for the UFC bantamweight title on Saturday and he's headlining his first ever show for the promotion, it's just another fight to him.
Now some fighters will say they are approaching a title fight like any other challenge, but in reality when it's over they all speak to just how special that moment can be.
Not Michael McDonald.
His fight against Renan Barao for the UFC interim bantamweight title is really just another trip to the Octagon and even if he got the call today saying the belt wasn't up for grabs and he was facing a late notice replacement, McDonald's pulse wouldn't raise one beat per second.
"It doesn't matter to me whether it's for the title or whether it's just another fight. Even today two days away the fight I would be perfectly fine if they changed my opponent today," McDonald told Bleacher Report on Thursday from England. "It's not about who I'm fighting or for what, this is my job and it's my mission from God, and that's why I'm here."
The words "mission from God" will rattle some people because McDonald is so outspoken about his faith, but it's not a belief he only celebrates on Sundays or holidays. McDonald truly follows the passion for his religion every minute of everyday, and he believes that's what separates him from so many other fighters on the UFC roster.
He's not in this sport for accolades or gold belts. McDonald believes it's his mission from God to do what he's doing, and fighting is just a profession that pays the bills. It's not what defines him as a person.
"I think a lot of people they define that in themselves, they take this whole fighter image and they think that's who they are. It makes up who they are with what they do. It's like those people when it's time to stop fighting, they're too old to put it down, but they've done it for so long they don't know what else to do. That's who they are, they don't know anything else. That's their identity," said McDonald
"It's a lot of the same for the title. They strive for that title, they live for that title. It's just so they can put that stamp on themselves at the end of the day and say I'm accomplished. I'm not a loser, and I don't need that. I don't care about it.
"I know what my identity is with my God and it has nothing to do with the title. It has nothing to do with me being a UFC fighter."
So what drives Michael McDonald as he heads into Saturday night?
McDonald wants to be happy in everything he does whether it's fighting, the carpentry he does at home in his spare time, loving his girlfriend or whatever else crosses his path. If McDonald wakes up happy and goes to bed with a smile on his face, nothing else matters and that is lost in translation for a lot of fighters according to the young Californian.
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"In general you need motivations, and for a lot of people that's the only motivation they have," McDonald said when speaking about fighters and their obsession with the title. "They can't even imagine losing that motivation because that's what drives them. You do need motivation, but I think some people are motivated by the wrong thing.
"This sport causes a lot of broken families, it can cause a lot of problems in life and it's so easy to get things mixed up. At the end of the day, if you're a happy person you're going to be a dangerous fighter. If you enjoy what you do and you're stepping in everyday and being happy, that's when you're the most dangerous fighter in the world. I think it's a horrible mistake for people to have it the other way around."
The job that McDonald has won't define him because he truly believes his mission in life comes from a higher power.
"My job is not my provider, my God is my provider," said McDonald. "I've had to go without income for a year and he's provided everyday. He's provided my happiness and my living, everything that's happened, he's provided for me."
One thing you'll rarely hear McDonald talk about leading up to his fight on Saturday is his opponent Renan Barao. It's not that McDonald is unaware of Barao or the dangers he possesses, but he's just another fighter standing across the cage from him.
McDonald even admits that in the lead up during fight week he's had arguments with UFC producers that have tried their hardest to get him to say something inflammatory to help promote the matchup with Barao.
"I've actually had a lot of complications with promotions. When you come out with the initial phrases that you say to lead up to that fight, to promote the fight, those little clips where you push about the fight and catch people's attention right before the show starts, right before they start the UFC. I've even had a lot of complications with that like 'hey pump it up, say something about Renan [Barao]' and I'm like that's not how I think, that's not how my brain works," said McDonald. "It's almost anti-climactic and it's not exciting, and I've almost had meet on middle ground with producers of that trying to find a way to say something about my opponent to pump up the fight and it's not about that."
The issue has come to a head more than once, but McDonald refuses to compromise his moral ground for the sake of promoting any fight. He's going to be true to himself and to everyone he reaches that watches on TV, in the arena, or anywhere else.
"I'm proud that I have not let this change me and the way that I think," McDonald said. "I've had producers of the UFC looking down my back saying 'dude, you need to say this, if not we're going to have some problems'. It's like I'm sorry, I'm going to have to take some time and talk to my manager about it and find some middle ground for what we can say.
"At the end of the day it always makes me feel good that I stayed true to myself."
Damon Martin is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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