Michael McDonald is the kind of athlete who exists just to make you feel bad about what you’ve done with your life so far.
For one, he’s already won a world title, albeit in the Tachi Fights promotion in Leemore, Calif. That might seem a minor accomplishment to some, but more than a few UFC fighters have called the promotion home before (and after) their UFC runs.
It’s even more impressive when you consider he did it as a teenager. He couldn’t even legally buy a beer to celebrate the night he won that title fight.
Then he joined the WEC, officially becoming the youngest fighter on the WEC and UFC roster. While most people were deciding what college or university to go to, or trying to find a summer job, “Mayday” was submitting Clint Godfrey in the first round, in what was then the “big leagues” of MMA’s bantamweight division.
The the WEC was folded into the UFC, and just like that, McDonald became a UFC fighter. Still not legally allowed to drink, by the way. He won his first fight in the UFC against Edwin Figueroa on the undercard of the Nogueria vs. Davis “UFC Fight Night.”
He won that fight, as well as Fight of the Night honors in an entertaining scrap that has the Seattle, Wash. on their feet nearly the whole 15 minutes.
And if that wasn’t enough, McDonald returned to action two months after his UFC debut victory, filling and injured Norifumi “Kid” Yammamoto on UFC 130 PPV card. Against Elite XC and Strikeforce vet Chris Cariaso, McDonald got his hand raised once again in a hard-fought decision win.
Still barely into his 20′s, and McDonald is already a world champion, Fight of the Night recipient and 2-0 in the top MMA promotion in the world.
Sorta makes you ask: what have you done lately?
McDonald hopes to answer that question the same way he always has: winning fights. And if he does, then the coming year could see him transform from “up-and-coming prospect” to “bantamweight title contender”.
The UFC bantamweight division is still a new, still trying to “sort itself out” so to speak. The divisional pecking order isn’t as well established as it is in the more well-known UFC weight classes.
The recent announcement that the Brian Bowles vs. Urijah Faber winner would be the No. 1 contender only speaks to this point. A fight with champ Dominick Cruz would be a rematch for either man.
And beyond current No. 1 contender Demetrious Johnson, and perhaps Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen, there’s not a real long list of challengers at 135 lbs.
My point here isn’t to disparage the bantamweight class itself. It’s a new division and will take some time to establish a solid divisional hierarchy. While it does, however, there exists the opportunity for a red hot, talented prospect with lots of hype to march his way to a title shot on the back of a few big wins.
That’s the opportunity Michael McDonald faces in the UFC right now. So far, his opponents have been well outside the bantamweight elite, and he has mostly flown under the radar of many casual MMA fans. But one or two choice wins, one or two Fight of the Night performances—and all that could change.
McDonald possesses exactly the right skill set to be an attractive proposition for the UFC as a title contender. He began his fight career in kickboxing at the age of 10, before turning to MMA. He had his professional MMA debut at 16 years old.
In short, although he’s still extremely young, he actually has nearly five years—and 14 fights—experience to rely on. He’s also a brown belt in BJJ, helping to augment his stand-up game.
Anyone who saw his fight with Edwin Figueroa knows what a scrapper McDonald can be. And anyone who has followed his career knows that he brings a wide ranging skill set to the table. He has all the tools to (one day) challenge for a UFC world championship.
That day may be sooner then you think.
Right now, Micheal McDonald is the hottest prospect in the UFC’s bantamweight division. And 2011 just might be the year he let’s the world in on the secret.