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Rory MacDonald: At welterweight, 'I'm going to be holding that belt for a long time'

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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

When you're intently focused or on a mission or devoted to a cause, you simply don't have time for many distractions. That's the position UFC welterweight Rory MacDonald, 25, finds himself in today. After rebounding against Tyron Woodley at UFC 174 with a sensational unanimous decision victory, MacDonald tangles with former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine in October at the UFC's first show in Halifax, Canada.

In fact, part of the reason the two are matched-up is because Saffiedine was so publicly vocal about his desire to face MacDonald. That's all good and well to MacDonald, but ultimately immaterial. The only thing he cares about is the welterweight title belt. Whatever obstacles are in front of him to get there, well, it's all part of one process.

"I don't really think about it, to be completely honest," MacDonald said of Saffiedine's desire to face him on Monday's The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. "My hope is just to be fighting for the championship. I don't really care about people who are ranked below me or whatever. I just want the belt. If other people are calling me out, that's OK. That's on them."

Besides, there's not much anyone can say or do to bring MacDonald down from the heights he's recently climbed. After a loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 167, the Canadian has shot back with not one, but two victories where he's not only looked impressive, but talented in all phases of the game.

The second of those victories, which came against Woodley in June, put him in an interesting position. The winner of Lawler vs. Matt Brown was publicly promised a title shot against champion Johny Hendricks, but there was hope a win against an opponent as credible as Woodley could force the UFC to reconsider. While MacDonald looked sensational, it wasn't enough to change the minds of UFC brass.

"I didn't really put too much hope into it," MacDonald said of getting a title shot with a win over Woodley. "I was just kind of going with the flow. I have to do what I have to do when I fight. That's all within my hands. That's what's in my control. I try to put on the best performance as I can and try to get to that spot. I think I'm inching my way closer. I'm right there. I'll fight whoever I have to fight to prove that I'm the best."

To stay on his toes and keep up with the division, MacDonald says he watched Lawler vs. Brown. And why not? A win over Saffiedine is anything but a guarantee, but in MacDonald's win, he and Lawler have unfinished business. If the two continue to win, they'll also be on a collision course.

"It was a good fight and he just beat [Jake] Ellenberger pretty badly. He's been impressive," MacDonald said of Lawler. "I'm not going to take anything away from him. He's a great fighter. Hopefully I'll get another fight against him in the future, too.

"I'm not going to argue the UFC's decision on who they want fighting next for the belt, but I really believe that I am the best. When I got that shot, I'm going to make a statement. I'm going to be holding that belt for a long time."

The loss to Lawler was only the second of MacDonald's career, the first being a stoppage defeat at the hands of Carlos Condit at UFC 115 in June of 2010. MacDonald doesn't go as far as saying he's happy about losing, but doesn't view the experiences negatively either. He believes he's destined to wear the welterweight strap, so those losses only serve as learned lessons.

"I try to live in the moment and I learn from my losses," he notes. "I've felt that I've grown from my two losses in the UFC. It's been a positive thing. All my fights since then and my fights going forward will be better."

As for what happened against Lawler, MacDonald is quick to note it's his fault. He didn't do the things in training or preparation he was supposed to. He got lazy and now realizes that simply won't cut it given his ambitions at this level of the sport.

"No, I had a bad camp. My focus wasn't in it," MacDonald admits. "If you're not focused at the top level of this sport, these guys are going to make you pay. I was just training the way I was comfortable with. I wasn't really pushing myself. It was my fault. At the end of the day, I didn't work hard enough. Robbie came out and he had a good fight, we had a close fight. I really believe that when I rematch him, it's going to be another great fight, but I'm going to come out on top."

As for Saffiedine, MacDonald respects him and is excited to face such a credible challenge. As always, however, he's "looking to have another dominant performance." Where it takes him specifically is hard to tell, but it's all one step in the right direction as far as he's concerned.

On his journey and as part of his focus, MacDonald recently made a curious change. His Twitter icon is now a lion rather a picture of himself. When pressed on why he made the switch, MacDonald answered in only the way he could: this is about staying focused, eyes on the prize, no distractions. It's time for business.

"I'm in the hunt mode," he said matter-of-factly. I feel like right now in the last couple of fights, I'm really hungry. I'm really focused. I'm here for the kill.

"I'm coming for the belt," he continued. "I'm going to demolish everyone I have to to get to that point."