As it is, MacDonald's ankle feels healthy, he said, and he feels good about where he's at heading into his Saturday fight against Alan Belcher at UFC Fight Night 25.
MacDonald said a reaggravation of that injury might have forced him to retire from MMA. But it's not the ankle that will ultimately wind up deciding when it's time for him to quit – it's the realistic mindset he prides himself on.
"I'm interested, I'm still motivated to go train every day, I still enjoy it – so I'm still going to do it," MacDonald said Thursday at the New Orleans Athletic Club. "The moment I don't want to put in the work, I'll be a guy who steps away. I'm not going to wait until I've been knocked out four times in a row and just hang on for that one more pay day. I have things to fall back on. There are other things in my life besides fighting. When I stop having fun, I'm going to move on in life."
It's ironic that MacDonald was recently in the position to come back after a long injury layoff. An injury against John Salter at UFC 113 in Montreal last year kept him on the shelf until UFC 129 in April, when he ignited his home country Canadian fans in Toronto with a submission win over Ryan Jensen.
Now MacDonald (25-14, 6-6 UFC) faces Belcher (16-6, 7-4 UFC), who has been out since, coincidentally, UFC 113 with eye problems that required surgery. And MacDonald said he knows what Belcher has on his mind.
"I can relate to what he's going through," MacDonald said. "I know the things that were going through my head before Toronto: 'Am I gonna get back good enough to do this? Am I gonna reaggravate the injury and call it wrap, call it a career?' There are lots of unanswered questions there. I was able to answer those questions in Toronto, and obviously Alan's going to have to answer those questions. I think I can understand some of the things going through his head."
Belcher had plenty of momentum on his side before his layoff – four straight fight night bonuses and a 3-1 mark which had just a controversial split decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama as a blemish.
But MacDonald said even a win over Belcher doesn't mean he can necessarily count on sticking around for a while to go on a title run.
"For me, I know I belong here," MacDonald said. "I'm no one-fight wonder. If you look at my fights and my record, I've fought a who's who of the middleweight division. It's not a question of if I belong here, it's how much longer can I do this for? How much longer do I want to do this for?"
MacDonald said Chris Lytle's retirement last month had him thinking about his own situation with four kids at home, and being closer to 40 than 30. He also said keeping it real comes in handy.
"I'm not a title contender," MacDonald said. "People might say that's a poor thing to say, but I'm realistic. Even if I beat Alan on Saturday, I'm a lot of fights away from a title shot. You start asking yourself, 'How many more fights do I want to do this for?' When it's time to step away, it's time to step away. I don't know the answer to that question yet. I'm 37 years old, I've had a good run and now it's time to start looking forward.
"But right now, right here, right this second, I'm focused on Saturday night."
MacDonald and Belcher open the main card of UFC Fight Night 25 on Spike TV at 9 p.m. Eastern. The main event features a welterweight fight between Jake Shields and Jake Ellenberger.