One Last Shot at Greatness?: A Career Crossroads For Jason MacDonald

Monty HeldtContributor IMay 3, 2010

At your job if you make mistakes, call in sick, or lolly-gag you might get a warning or two, before you get piped.

Such "luxuries" are often not afforded to fighters in today's UFC.  The facts are that a win is a bit of made up ground in the imaginary ratings structure of the heads of the UFC, on one's way to bigger fights or a title shot.  A loss in the U comes constantly with the threat of being cut and waking up on the unemployment line.  Any loss, at any time, including losing in a title fight can put your career and your career path into a complete tailspin.

When I mention an imaginary rankings ladder, I of course speak of that which I have been a vocal opponent of since UFC 1.  There are no sanctioned or published rankings that are put out, or recognized by the UFC, Dana White, Joe Silva, or the Fertitta Brothers.  What we essentially have is a large talent pool, filled with world class fighters, and matches based on the popularity of fighters, perceived title pictures, and heat between fighters.  There is constant movement in these imaginary ranks.  Some sites and magazines speculate on them, but none are recognized or accredited by the UFC or most MMA organizations.

If a fighter wins a few fights in a row they suddenly become thrust into the limelight.  They begin actually taking home a decent amount of pay and start being mentioned by the MMA collective community as a possible contender to whomever carries the strap in their weight class. Wins come at a high premium.  This is not an easy job and particularly in the U, the talent base is easily the best and the biggest in the world.  Being a professional MMA fighter is probably one of the hardest and most grueling jobs in the world right now.

After every event it seems fighters are cut as well.  It too is one of the hazards of this profession.  Losing a fight is not the only way to get cut.  In some cases, it is "how" you lost, and even at times how you won a fight that ultimately can seal your fate.  

Just as much as the lack of a sanctioned ranking system can limit a winning fighter not getting recognized for his wins and winning streaks.  It also can severely punish those who take a stab at the top in the early stages of their careers and lose a few matches in a row to high level opposition.

In that vain, I introduce to you former UFC fighter, family Man, and trainer of young MMA fighters, Canadian Born, Jason "the athlete" MacDonald.

I would start by telling you that I personally have never met Mr. MacDonald.  But I am also a good ol' Alberta boy, and Jason is a media darling in the city of Edmonton.  He was born in Eastern Canada but has been adopted by the West for his tenacity, work ethic, professionalism, and humble demeanor.

And it's for good reason.  Jason is a talented, tough, game, and intelligent fighter in the ring.  You will remember him from his previous tour of duty in the UFC but here in Edmonton we have been lucky enough to watch him for years.

I would be kidding you if I were to start telling you of his constant dominance here in Alberta.  He has had an up and down record for his entire fighting career.  He has always sought out and been willing to fight the best fighters in whatever territory he is fighting in.   

Some of the names under the "w" category in his record shed a small amount of light on this.  He has wins over Joe "el dirte" Doerkson, "Crippler" Chris Leben, Rory Singer, and the tough "King" Solomon Hutcherson.

But it is his "L" column that for anyone who has followed his career that tells the tale. He has lost to Rich "Ace" Franklin, "Predator" Patrick Cote, Yushin Okami, Travis Lutter, and Demian Maia, among others of course.  But are these guys not some of the best in the world?

Of course they are, and J-Mac is someone who will continue to seek the best out, and continue to put his best against.  Nobody will ever accuse him of handpicking opponents. 


He has also foregone training with high level MMA outfits around the world such as American Top Team, specifically to stay here.  It is actually the casual Internet fans way of knocking him as an "also ran".   (so easy to throw stones from behind a keyboard)  

His inability to win the big one when given the opportunity, his small town training center, and the territory in which he fights, always seem to come up in the debate over whether he belongs in the UFC.  His personality and his dedication were never the issue.  Nor was his talent level.  He has as many fights won by knockout, as by submission.  He is a very complete mixed martial artist.

The problem?

The UFC cannot continue to throw you in there and pay you to fight if you are not winning.  It goes without saying why.

"The Athlete" has never hid from the "why" he was cut in the first place.  The day after his dismissal from the U became public he actually wrote an apology in his weekly column about life in the UFC, on  Canadian fans teed off on him, over where and how he trained, where he fought, and with whom he trained.  Several openly criticized his decision to continue to use the expertise of MFC frontman and promoter Mark Pavelich.  But he still continued to explain that he believed in what he was doing and the people around him.  In all fairness Pavelich has fed MacDonald a lot of name fighters in a territory where a lot of them would not go early in his career.  I also do not know Mark Pavelich, but will say that he is heading this promotion in the right direction with a lot of great fights and fighters.  Mark helped Jason rack up a few victories against name guys that subsequently helped him into the U in the first place.  Speculating on it, without having inner working knowledge of their relationship simply would not be fair to them or to the readers.

However, my point is that he apologized to his fans, sponsors, and supporters for losing a few fights in a row, two years of his life, and countless training hours away from his family.  He didn't owe any of us a thing.

But he did the right thing and as always in his career went out with class. Matchmaker Joe Silva was actually quoted at the time, in saying that the door would be open should he return to his winning ways in the minors.  At the time of his last loss in the UFC, Dana White had suggested that MacDonald would be safe from termination.  But alas, it wasn't meant to be.  He was let go by the UFC, and immediately picked up by the MFC, and booked to a fight.

He could have pissed, and he could have moaned, but instead, again, he sought out the best that was available in Travis "serial killer" Lutter.  Lutter is an enigma who has been guilty of under training and showing up overweight.  But make no mistake, and Anderson Silva would vouch for it.  Lutter is tough and talented, and knows how to fight MMA.  MacDonald was defeated yet again.

Again, the rumors began that J Mac was done.  But he fought against it and got back in the ring again in the upstart "Maximum Fighting Championships".  The MFC is run by Mark Pavelich, and is an up and comer on the world MMA beat.  

The province of Alberta does not have to fight all of these anti MMA legislations.  It's done.  It's legal.  It's everywhere, and you better believe it is growing.  

As it grows so does the stable of fighters.  There are MMA names that you have heard of here, including UFC castoffs Thales Leites, the aforementioned Lutter, Dean Lister, Tom "Kong" Watson, and Wilson Gouveia.  It also has featured matches with notable contenders in Paul "Semtex" Daly, and Ben "smooth" Henderson. 

I am certainly not trying to indicate that in a "us against them" style brawl, the MFC would rival the U.  I am however trying to give you a glimpse of how lucky we are up here to have a talented roster of semi to world class fighters, and promoters willing to sign them and let them fight.  The fights and the match ups are excellent and the tickets are a fair price.  It's all you can ask for outside of the UFC and Strikeforce.  This territory has a lot of tough guys in it, and all are looking pretty much for the same thing.

A shot or another shot with the UFC.

For Jason MacDonald this is just that.  An opportunity to put the rest of his career behind him, and get back where someone with his skills belongs.  It is never too late to start winning fights in the UFC.  

An example is Randy Couture.  The same whispers of him being done were prevalent after his loss to Brock Lesnar.  Yet, a couple of wins in a lighter class, and he is being mentioned yet again as an outside contender to the strap.  It happens in MMA. Fighters long term records are not the focus.  Without a sanctioned rankings system the possibility exists that if one wins 3 or 4 fights in a row against higher "ranked" fighters they could be right back in the mix.

Now, I am not trying to indicate that a win over Jon Salter should buy the Athlete anything other than another fight against someone that he has not beat before and is considered to be ranked higher than Salter.   That's it.  Another fight, on another card, sometime, somewhere under the Zuffa banner.  (Rematch Shonie Carter!!)

If his record is any indication, we would say in here in Alberta, "you are going to have to cut off his head and hide it on him."  I don't think he is going to just quietly go away.  

And win or lose, we here in the frozen North are cheering him on every step of the way.