'We're Just Cattle to Them': Rory MacDonald Speaks Out on UFC, Bellator Debut

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMay 17, 2017

Rory MacDonald, left, in action against BJ Penn during their mixed martial arts bout at a UFC on FOX 5 event in Seattle, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. MacDonald won via unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

People still ask him about it.

They ask him about the violence of it, the pain, that 10,000-mile stare. They wonder about the determination that appeared to derive from some obscure part of the brain overlooked by evolution. 

Rory MacDonald doesn't mind talking about that instant classic back in 2015. It was his second fight with Robbie Lawler, then the UFC welterweight champion, and the two waged a top-level, back-and-forth war that ended in the fifth round, when a valiant MacDonald succumbed to the agony of a pulverized nose.

"They're excited about the fight with Robbie Lawler, always," MacDonald said of the fans who spot him in public. "The general thing I get is compliments on that fight."

Rory was 16 years old when he first fought professionally and 25 for that Lawler contest. To dabble in lazy cliches, fans watched him become a man in full right on their screens.

He's not that young phenom anymore. After extended inactivity, MacDonald makes his Bellator MMA debut Friday at Bellator 179, when he faces British knockout artist Paul Daley. He's using his veteran status not only to grab marquee matchups but to speak out on what he sees as important issues in the sport.

MacDonald after his UFC 189 loss to Robbie Lawler.
MacDonald after his UFC 189 loss to Robbie Lawler.John Locher/Associated Press

Doing an exclusive phone interview with Bleacher Report, MacDonald starts slowly. His deadpan voice is, at first, the vocal equivalent of a shrug.

But when you mention his old fighting home, that voice starts to gain speed.

"There's a lot that comes to mind about the UFC," MacDonald said. "I disagree with a lot of the moves they're making. The organization that best suits me at the end of the day is Bellator. It's just business."

The more he talks, though, the easier it is to infer that it's more than business. MacDonald sees things in Bellator's practices that he says were lacking in the larger UFC.

"[Bellator fighters are] treated not like a number," he said. "As [the UFC] has gotten bigger, we're just cattle to them."

To hear MacDonald tell it, the different atmospheres have tangible carryover effects. Something as putatively simple as a fighter walkout can foment fighter morale.

"In the production, [Bellator] has production value going on for their show," MacDonald said. "There's a little more time and energy going into it. The style of each and every fighter is evident in every way."

That could be a real opportunity for MacDonald, who, for all his talent, still may face perceptions that he is bland or just "the guy from the Lawler fight." He also remains somewhat in the shadow of his friend, mentor, and fellow welterweight Georges St-Pierre (they train together at Tristar Gym in Montreal).

"I'm feeling blessed and very prepared for this fight," MacDonald recently told Gareth A. Davies of the Telegraph. "I'm ready to go and smash this guy. It's a big honor. Who would've known when I was 14 or 15 years old starting martial arts that I'd be headlining a card in London? It feels really good to be out there. I'm really excited to put on a show for the London fans." 

That kind of motivation may also explain why he's committed to a stoppage Friday against Daley.

"He's a knockout striker...some of the best knockouts in the game," MacDonald said of his opponent. "He doesn't quit. I'm going to go out there and put him away. I'm gonna finish him. It's as simple as that."

After fighting only twice since 2015, MacDonald is ready to compete and win again. Part of that inactivity falls on Bellator, which signed him in August but did not immediately book an opponent for him.

But it's all water under the bridge now, as MacDonald surges back into the limelight and, he hopes, the win column. If MacDonald gets his way, it will be the first of many happy returns in a new home that seems to suit him well.

"There are great fights and great fighters in both places," MacDonald said. "Bellator is picking up some of the best talent in the business. ... I want to fight three or four times a year, at a minimum."

     

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.