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Top UFC Welterweight Rory MacDonald Could Be Latest to Test Free Agency

Rory MacDonald did not agree to a contract with the UFC, and he will test free agency.
Rory MacDonald did not agree to a contract with the UFC, and he will test free agency.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Scott HarrisFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2016

Rory MacDonald's contract negotiations with the UFC have not borne fruit, and now the top welterweight contender says he's open to signing with another promotion.

That's according to MacDonald himself, who talked about the negotiations and his ongoing inactivity in the UFC—which he claimed has been caused by UFC officials—Monday on The MMA Hour broadcast (h/t Shaun Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting).

"I want to make the most money I can. I want to get paid for what I bring to the table," MacDonald said. "I've sacrificed a lot to get to the top, to the world title...I did a lot of favors, I felt like, for the UFC and I don't think it got returned. So now it's all about making money, and whoever wants to pay me the most is where I'll go."

If the two sides are unable to reach agreement on a new contract and MacDonald does indeed become a free agent, it's not hard to imagine a bidding war for the services of MacDonald, the 26-year-old who is 18-3 as a pro and ranked as the top welterweight contender in the UFC, according to the UFC's own official rankings. Promotions that could be interested include Bellator MMA, the UFC's top rival, World Series of Fighting, and the Asia-based One Championship.

Bellator, which is owned by the Viacom media giant, has previously signed ex-UFC fighters like Benson Henderson, Phil Davis and Josh Thomson. MacDonald, however, would arguably be their biggest such coup to date. 

Rory MacDonald will sign with whoever pays him the most.

Rory is actually a legit pro fighter, I don't see the UFC letting him go. $$$

— #TheKing (@Izi_Garcia) March 15, 2016

It's all a sign the UFC may not have the same kind of perceived power in the MMA market as it had just a few years ago, as Bellator and other promotions begin building strength as viable alternative destinations for fighters who, for whatever reason, may not wish to join or remain with the UFC.

MacDonald has not competed in the UFC since his classic title match last July with Robbie Lawler, which MacDonald lost by TKO in the final round of a valiant and violent effort. On Monday, MacDonald said the UFC was responsible for the down time:

We'd been in negotiations with my new contract since my last fight, but they'd offered me to fight Hector [Lombard] next, so I said 'definitely, let's do it...Right about when I was going to start training camp, they said, ‘okay, we don't feel that you're ready because you haven't started sparring yet.' But I never told them that I was not ready or I wasn't healthy with my nose or whatever. Like, they just asked me if I had started sparring. I said no, I was going to wait until training camp started to get back into it. And they were like, ‘okay, we're to postpone it until the Australia card.'

MacDonald, who suffered a badly broken nose during his fight with Lawler, said he did not feel he was fairly compensated for the fight. Relatively low fighter pay has been a frequent charge against the UFC from its own fighters and others.

I don't think Sage makes too much I think everybody else makes too little https://t.co/bJkHytaQhX

— Nick Newell (@NotoriousNewell) December 14, 2015

"A performance like [UFC 189] and everything I did leading up to it in my career with the UFC, I feel like I should be left a little bit more financially stable," MacDonald said. "I still make good money, but I still feel that I was worth more. That I brought more to the table than what I really got. So I just have to really fight for what is right, on the business side now...Now it's time to get a little more business savvy rather than just do whatever just to get to the big fight."

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