October 03, 2016 - 12:32 PM
TORONTO - Canadian welterweight Rory MacDonald is celebrating a new baby, new employer and a new lease on life.
The 27-year-old fighter is the latest new face of the Bellator promotion, leaving the UFC after a 13-fight career that brought him to the cusp of the 170-pound championship.
"I feel a lot of motivation," MacDonald said of Bellator. "They treat me well. They have a lot of belief in me. It's exciting new territory. New guys to fight."
And he believes he is finally taking charge of his career.
"I'm definitely getting in the driver's seat right now, that's for sure."
After losing by fifth-round TKO to then-champion (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler in a brutal bout at UFC 189 in July 2015, MacDonald began to question whether he was getting the pay he deserved. His nose broken, the challenger had given his all in the fight. His bloody staredown with Lawler at the end of Round 4 with both fighters refusing to give ground remains an iconic MMA moment.
MacDonald made a basic purse of US$59,0000 for that fight and both men picked up an additional $50,000 fight of the night bonus. Lawler's basic pay was $300,000 including a win bonus.
MacDonald was then matched with red-hot contender Stephen (Wonderboy) Thompson in a battle of top welterweight contenders that was also the last fight on the Canadian's UFC contract. In the leadup to the June 2016 showdown in Ottawa, MacDonald announced he would test free agency after the bout.
MacDonald, a B.C., native who now calls Montreal home, predicted Thompson would be a technical fight with bloodshed. He was right. Thompson, a former world champion kickboxer with an array of offensive weapons, was hard to hit and harder to stop hitting. MacDonald (18-4) had his nose broken again in losing a unanimous decision.
Despite the loss, MacDonald said he knew his worth and was going to ensure he got it with his next deal.
"I bring a lot to the table," he said when asked about that worth. "I have the Canadian audience behind me. That's a market that anybody in mixed martial arts promotion wants to tap into it because everybody knows it's a big market ... I've competed at the highest level in the sport for a long time. I'm a young guy. I have a lot of years ahead of me."
"Along with a few other things, I need to be financially compensated for what I bring to the table, because I'll be making these people a lot of money — bringing them good exciting fights and making them fantastic," he added.
MacDonald listened to all offers including that of the UFC before choosing Bellator in late August. While Bellator is second to the UFC in the MMA world, it is not without resources under owner Viacom, whose entertainment empire ranges from Paramount Pictures to MTV.
MacDonald, whose daughter Maia just turned three months, says he was not asking for "something astronomical that doesn't work for everyone."
"We see (the) UFC making so much money right now. It's an incredible amount of money," he said. "I give them all the praise for that. I think it's amazing what they've done for the business and the sport. But let's be realistic here, it's a two-way street. The fighters have done a lot for the sport as well. We're at a pivotal point in the sport where we need to stick up for ourselves and get our slice of the pie too."
MacDonald took pains to say he has no issue with the UFC and appreciates what they did for this career.
"I'm just trying to do what's best for me and my family and my career. It's just a business thing, it's not an emotion thing."
MacDonald doesn't expect to make his Bellator debut until next summer in order to let his nose heal. To aid that, he plans to cut down on sparring between bouts.
"I want to take my training in a little bit different direction, and save the fight for the fight," he said. "Not so much in the gym."
He also plans to spend more time at his old gym, Toshido MMA, in Kelowna, B.C., while continuing to work out at Tristar in Montreal.
"I want to get back to my roots a little bit and focus on my strengths, rather than continue to keep learning new things for every single opponent I have. I think I've just got to really impose my will on my opponents from now on and my strengths rather than make changes to adapt to new fighters. I've done it for some many years now, I've forgotten what got me there, which was my strengths."
While he plans to debut at welterweight in Bellator, he is also willing to campaign as a middleweight, light-heavyweight and even heavyweight.
"It's nice to be able to have that freedom there," he said.
Russian Andrey Koreshkov (19-1) is the current Bellator 170-pound champion.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016