Admit it: Even though the beating Rory MacDonald absorbed at the hands of Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 was the sort that leaves people pondering whether or not the fighter will ever again be the same, you had a feeling, deep down, that MacDonald is just offbeat enough that he'd be the exception to the norm.
And that maybe the quirky Canadian might be happy that he simply got to participate in a battle which will be discussed among the all-time great MMA fights for decades to come, even if he came up short in the end.
If those were your hunches, you were correct. In his first interview since losing the epic welterweight title encounter in Las Vegas on July 11 via fifth-round TKO, MacDonald called the experience the his crowning achievement.
"The greatest moment of my life," MacDonald said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "The best experience, it was a real experience, it showed me who I was. It was the best moment of my entire life. Obviously I'm disappointed that I didn't win, I wasn't able to push through and stop him, but at the end of the day, it was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm grateful for it."
MacDonald went into the final round up three rounds to one on the judges scorecards, a score he said he found accurate. But he refuses to let himself get caught up in "what if" scenarios, simply tipping his cap to the foe who found a way to finish him and vowing to learn from the experience.
"The reality is, he stopped me. I wasn't slipping his punches when I should have been, I wasn't using good technique and movement, you know? The foot was keeping me stationary, and he did what he had to do. He's the champ for a reason. I learned from it.
"I think it's going to help me grow as a martial artist," MacDonald continued. "It shows me what it's going to take to be a champion, and the changes I need to make to get to that level, to get a little bit better so I can get to that level."
Much has been made of the immediate aftermath of the fight, after Lawler dropped MacDonald with a straight left for an abrupt finish. A disturbing gif of MacDonald trying to regain his senses on the mat made the rounds. But MacDonald himself doesn't seem as disturbed about the finish as everyone else.
"He was really finding his spot with his left right on my nose," MacDonald said. "It was giving me shock waves through my brain and my body. It just stopped me. Never broken a bone in my life, so it was an interesting feeling to fight three rounds with a broken nose. I was doing okay until the fifth."
MacDonald has been called everything from exciting to boring and pretty much everything in between over the course of his career. He acknowledges he seems to be getting more props from the fans now than before, but knows how quickly things can change.
"It seems like he gets a lot more love, before this fight I was ‘the boring guy,' after the Jake [Ellenberger] fight," MacDonald said. "Even though I was knocking people out and getting Fight of the Night, people don't give a s---, they hear one guy say that I had a boring fight, so now I'm ‘the boring guy,' now I have a good fight, so I'm cool again. It's all fickle. I don't care. I know who I am. ... My next fight could be f------ boring again and s----- and they could hate me again. Who knows."
MacDonald, who came out of the bout with a broken nose and a fracture toe, revealed on Monday's MMA Hour that he also took an MCL injury into the fight. If all goes well, he hopes to return to the cage by December. He feels that with the right performance, he could be one win away from another fight with Lawler, a rematch he'd eagerly embrace.
"Robbie's an amazing fighter, it's amazing to fight against him," he said. "Can't wait to fight him again, we're going to fight five more times, I bet. He's the funnest guy in the world to fight. That guy brings the best in you for sure."
Until he gets that opportunity, MacDonald will continue to savor the memories of the fight in ways few of us will ever contemplate.
"When the blood was all in my mouth and leaking in my face, that was incredible," MacDonald said. "That one describes my career and my personality perfectly."
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