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Rory MacDonald on Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, GSP and Metamoris

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On Monday the UFC’s top welterweight contender Rory MacDonald stopped by the set of The MMA Hour. MacDonald was in New York to train for his upcoming Nov. 22 jiu-jitsu bout with J.T. Torres at Metamoris.

In the midst of the 40-minute conversation with Ariel Helwani, the 25-year MacDonald hit on a variety of topics, ranging from his admiration of Irishman Conor McGregor to whether or not he’s (now) willing to fight Georges St-Pierre (since it appears St-Pierre is coming back).

Here are some of the highlights from the interview.

On Conor McGregor
Though he and his shyness might be the polar opposite of the outspoken Conor MacGregor, MacDonald said that he had great admiration for the Irishman. How much? To the point that MacDonald suspects that McGregor represents evolution in the striking game.

"Yeah, I’m really impressed by him," MacDonald said. "He’s on the cutting on some stuff I think. His movement and striking, it’s got my attention for sure. I want to emulate some of it for sure."

MacDonald and McGregor have been communicating very chummily via the public social domain of Twitter. MacDonald said that he likes to watch McGregor fight, and that his sense of self-promotion also stands out.

"He’s doing the right thing to get noticed quick," he said. "But I think he would have done it anyway with his skill set. I’m more of a fan of his skills. The way he talks is the way he talks, but I’m more of a fan of his work in the cage. His movement, his confidence, and there’s a lot of little technical things he does with his striking that I think I could use. I like it. It’s new."

MacDonald said he would go to Ireland to train with McGregor at some point. But first things first, he would be training out in California after his Metamoris debut.

On Ronda Rousey
Like his fellow Canadian Mark Bocek, who appeared on The MMA Hour after his retirement a few months ago, MacDonald admitted he’s not particularly a fan of women’s MMA, because it’s not technical enough for his taste.

"I don’t know what it is," he said. "I find it that they fight with a lot of emotion, and sometimes the technique gets thrown out the backdoor a lot of the time. Not all of the time. And don’t get me wrong, I respect them. They fight hard. It’s no joke. But it’s not something that I watch a lot."

The lone exception: Current bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

"Ronda’s another one I think is really good," he said. "Her judo’s really impressive, how she uses it in MMA. And I’m not a fan of women’s MMA. I just don’t watch it. She’s the only one that I’m like, wow, super-skilled. I like watching skilled fighters, and I think she uses her skill super-well."

On Metamoris and his love of jiu-jitsu
One of Metamoris’s surprise bookings has been MacDonald, who will compete against world champion J.T. Torres on Nov. 15 in Los Angeles. Surprising because the MacDonald that people see in the Octagon is a well-honed fighter on the feet, who rarely demonstrates his abilities on the ground. In fact, he hasn’t competed in a jiu-jitsu tournament since he was a teenager, some years before his first UFC fight.

MacDonald said he jumped at the chance to partake at the next Metamoris. Asked what he thought of the points-free jiu-jitsu promotion, which for its fifth show will feature Renzo Gracie against Sakuraba, MacDonald had some interesting thoughts.

"I think it will be huge," he said. "I mean jiu-jitsu is super-popular. It’s growing in popularity. It’s a great sport to just get into and watch. I like it."

MacDonald said he really enjoys watching the sport, and it’s been a constant for him for over a decade.

"I love jiu-jitsu," he said. "I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu since I was 14 years old. It actually was the martial art that was really stapled in my mind that said, this is what I want to do…I want to do martial arts for the rest of my life. It was the first thing I fell in love with. I haven’t really got to show that in a long time. I haven’t been in a grappling match or a grappling tournament in a long time. After this fight I have kind of a layoff between my next fight, so why not?"

On a potential Georges St-Pierre comeback, and what that might mean to him
Before Georges St-Pierre decided to take a break from the fight game and voluntarily cede his title, the biggest theoretical being floated around was…what happens if St-Pierre and MacDonald were asked to fight? As teammates at Tristar in Montreal, both had contended they had no interest in fighting the other.

When St-Pierre left, that problem was seemingly solved. MacDonald was unhindered in his run for the welterweight title. Yet now that St-Pierre says he can get back to training after his latest ACL, and it feels likely that we’ll see him in the Octagon again, the old question once again starts back up again.

What happens if MacDonald and St-Pierre are asked to fight?

MacDonald tempered this talk best he could, saying that, though they’ve never taken a blood oath on never facing each other, that there was an understanding in play. And besides, St-Pierre is a long way from ready.

"He’s not even back, he’s just starting martial arts training again," he said. "He’s got a long road ahead of him."

When pressed on the timing of his coming back just as he’s getting set for a title shot, MacDonald said he was "sure it’s not going to be a problem."

"Neither of us is the champ right now, and I’m going for the championship," he said. "I’m going to take that belt, and no one’s going to stop me."

On Robbie Lawler, and where his next fight will be
MacDonald will be on hand for Johny Hendricks’ title rematch with Robbie Lawler on Dec. 6 at UFC 181. He said he hoped that he wouldn’t be asked to go into the cage to challenge the winner, but that "if they asked me to do it, I’d do it." 

As for when the title fight might potentially take place, MacDonald heard rumblings about spring.

"A lot of people think it’s going to be March in Montreal, which would be really good timing for me," he said. "It would be awesome. But we got to see how the fight goes. They might get injured, they might need surgeries, who knows, right? I hope the winner is healthy and they’re ready to fight ASAP."

MacDonald has only suffered two losses in his pro fighting career, one of them against Carlos Condit at UFC 115 (a fight that stuck in his craw for a long time), and the other against Robbie Lawler at UFC 167. The latter didn’t bother MacDonald nearly as much, though he credits the listless performance for reinvigorating his career.

When asked why he wasn’t pining for a rematch with Lawler -- as he’d done with Condit -- MacDonald said it was part of his maturation process.

"No, it would be a whole new experience if I fought him again," he said.

"It’s a fight. Yeah, sometimes I sit back and I think, wow, I’m here, I can’t believe it happened so fast. Sometimes I have moments like that. But most of the time, and I know when it’s time to fight, it’s just a fight. I’ve been there many times. And sure there’ll maybe be a piece of gold waiting for me at the end of the road, but when those cage doors close I’m just going to go in there and I’m going to fight."