LAS VEGAS -- It's not like Rory MacDonald is taking any joy in the travails of his friend and Tri Star campmate, Georges St-Pierre.
But as a byproduct of the former longtime welterweight champion's hiatus from the sport, MacDonald is no longer inundated with questions about whether he'd face off against his teammate, and that's a relief.
"There is less pressure having to respond to the question ‘when are you going to fight him?' and ‘why aren't you going to fight him?' and this and that," said MacDonald, who meets Demian Maia at UFC 170 on Saturday night. "So that whole thing is gone, so that's a relief."
Of course, the reason MacDonald was being asked such questions to begin with was that he was on such a hot run in the division over which St-Pierre rained. Regardless who was holding the championship, MacDonald's loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 167, in the wake of a lackluster win last summer over Jake Ellenberger -- would have put an end to any sort of title talk.
So without the burden of championship expectations, MacDonald will look to get back on the winning track.
"Obviously Rory was right there before the Robbie Lawler fight, Lawler is getting a shot at the title now," UFC president Dana White said. "It's a big fight for these guys. Every fight, you're in a must-win situation, but for where they stand in the division, it's an important fight for them."
Like MacDonald (18-5), Maia is looking to get back into contention after suffering his first lost a welterweight. The Brazilian standout won his first three fights at 170 pounds before losing a split decision to Jake Shields in October.
Maia says he let the fight against Sheilds slip away, a mistake he's not about to make again.
"I learned a lot of things," Maia said about the Shields loss. "But I think the main thing was, for the first time in that fight, I relaxed more than normally. I won't do that again."
Meanwhile, Maia feels like Las Vegas is his city -- he's 5-0 in this town heading into Saturday night's fight at Mandalay Bay.
"I like to fight here in Vegas because, you know, the the energy is different," Maia said. "I always won when I fought here and I hope to keep winning on Saturday."
As for MacDonald (15-2), with the GSP question out of the way, he's just looking to get back to business without distractions.
"I'm just doing my own thing, one fight at a time on my own journey to the title," he said. "There was never a shadow cast upon me with Georges."