It seems that soon Conor McGregor won't be the only fighter driving a hard bargain with the UFC.
Rory MacDonald, who last weekend tweeted his support of McGregor in the dispute between the Irish star and UFC management, has made it clear that he intends to start taking the business side of fighting more seriously. MacDonald is on the last fight of his contract with the UFC and set to become a free agent in mid-June. In an interview with Fight Network's John Pollock, McDonald discussed his pending free agency and why he was was so vocal with his intentions to take a serious look at free agency.
"I think it's important to get it out there. It's a known topic about fighter pay now and I think it's beneficial to me that I get it out there too so when it comes time to negotiate I have other sources to talk with. It's a known thing, people are buzzing about it. It's a good thing."
It's true people have been buzzing about MacDonald's pending free agency, including Bellator President Scott Coker who has made it clear that he will be pursuing MacDonald once his contract is up. Recently Coker has managed to lure several free agents away from the UFC with the promise of better sponsorships and more personal autonomy, but MacDonald would be his biggest coup to date. While Coker already signed elite fighters and former champions Josh Thomson and Benson Henderson both men were well outside of title contention upon leaving the UFC and are thought by many to be on the downswing of their respective careers. Conversely, at 26, MacDonald is in his fighting prime and one of the absolute best welterweights in the world right now, anointed by the UFC as the "next big thing" at 170 pounds before suffering a setback against champion Robbie Lawler in his last fight.
Though the Lawler loss may represent a professional setback, MacDonald's personal life is soon to be taking a major leap forward. MacDonald is expecting his first child, a daughter, sometime in July and the impending responsibility of a family to care for has him focusing more on financial incentives.
"I'm a simple martial arts guy. I come from humble beginnings so I don't require a lot to feel comfortable. But now that I have a little girl on the way, I want to be able to provide everything she's gonna need in her life. So that's a big motivator to start getting paid for this because it doesn't last forever."
MacDonald is only 26 years old but he has already been fighting for over a decade and though his style is highly defensive he has been stopped twice by punches including his brutal Fight of the Year with Lawler last year. In an age where more fighters are taking the risks associated with repeated concussive trauma seriously, it is not unreasonable to think MacDonald only has five or six years left to make as much money as possible. Beyond needing to start building a nest egg, MacDonald wants what he believes he's worth.
"I want big money fights because first and foremost I think I'm worth it. I think I bring a lot to the table, I think I bring a lot of viewers. I think I'm the guy in the Canadian market right now, and I think that is a huge factor that is forgotten in some negotiations, but you know, we're gonna see how it plays out.
While MacDonald is the biggest MMA star in Canada (so long as Georges St. Pierre stays retired) his claim of bringing a lot of viewers is debatable. UFC 189, which featured Lawler-MacDonald in the co-main event, did tremendously well on PPV but much of that can be attributed to the presence of Conor McGregor in the main event. Before that, MacDonald headlined a Fight Night card against Tarec Saffiedine in his home country which did moderate television ratings and before that he was the co-main event of UFC 174 which ended up being one of the worst performing PPV's in UFC history.
It's true that the UFC clearly wanted MacDonald to pick up GSP's Canadian superstar mantle, the jury is still out on whether he can actually do it. But even if MacDonald isn't the kind of draw who can pull a million PPV buys fighting a broom that doesn't mean he is being properly compensated. When he was first starting out in the UFC, MacDonald admits that he was less concerned with the money aspect of things because he was more focused on his athletic goals but as he has has gone further up the ladder, MacDonald says it is time for him to start being as tough in the negotiating room as he is in the cage.
"I look up to [Conor McGregor] in that sense. There's a lot to be learned from his stance and sticking up for himself. Getting what he's worth...Not just accepting what's thrown at you. Standing up for yourself. That's the thing martial artists aren't used to. You've got to really stick up for yourself and be a tough businessman when it's time for negotiations.
Come June, Dana White may have his hands full.
Rory MacDonald is scheduled to face Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 89 on June 18th, in Ontario. .
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Let him go. The UFC released TUF 14 winner Diego Brandao following his felony arrest for an incident outside of a strip club.
Rehab. Junior dos Santos will be out for 12 weeks following shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
MVP. Michael Page says he is very happy with Bellator and is ready to be thrown into title contention.
He does it. Cain Velasquez says he can't see Conor McGregor's side in his recent dispute with the UFC.
Beat. The MMA Beat groups sans Ariel Helwani discuss all things 197 as well as Benson Henderson's Bellator debut.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Wheaties curse. Patrick Wyman, writing for The Washington Post, breaks down the root cause of Anthony Pettis's precipitous fall.
Keeping it 200. Jordan Breen addresses the negative reaction to Cormier-Jones 2.
Pretty good look behind the scenes of Xtreme Couture.
Joanna Champion looks back at how she became champion.
UFC 200 build up should be fun.
Embedded for the 200 promo tour.
My name will forever reign.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 28, 2016
@joerogan I stepped up my #kettlebell training A notch or two pic.twitter.com/w15IDppHVM— Court McGee (@Court_McGee) April 29, 2016
This is a thing that happened.
Remember when I broke the ring?! https://t.co/MZqTDBbqwy— Ilir Latifi (@Latifimma) April 29, 2016
Sage apparently actually had MRSA but is now out of the hospital.
Thanks everyone for the Prayers ✝ I'm back from the Hospital and I'll be training in a week for UFC 200!pic.twitter.com/2zi7IlCUaC— Sage Northcutt (@sagenorthcutt) April 29, 2016
Considering the nature of MMA I'm not sure if Joe B should consider that an insult or a compliment.
Thank you guys for voting me "Worst Instagram in the UFC" love you— Joseph Benavidez (@JoeJitsu) April 29, 2016
I could be wrong here but I believe Khabib's comment says "I'm the one on the right"
Dr. Werdum? Is he a hypnotherapist?
And here he is hitting mitts.
It doesn't seem like the worst Instagram.
Valeria Letourneau (8-4-0) vs. Joanne Calderwood (10-1-0); UFC Fight Night 89, June 18.
Joseph Duffy (14-2-0) vs. Mitch Clarke (11-3-0); UFC Fight Night - Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez; July 7.
Cezar Ferreira (9-5-0) vs. Anthony Smith (25-11-0); UFC - The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, July 8.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2011: Koetsu Okazaki won the Shooto bantamweight championship, defeating Shuichiro Katsumura with punches at Shooto Tradition 2011. Also on the card, Junji Ikoma won the vacant Shooto strawweight championship, defeating Junji Ito by unanimous decision.
2010: Yuki Kondo won the Pancrase middleweight championship, defeating Ichiro Kanai by unanimous decision at Pancrase: Passion Tour 4. Kondo had won the light heavyweight championship in 2003 but vacated it in 2008 to drop down to the middleweight division where he was promoted to interim champion, a title he held until defeating Kanai and being promoted to undisputed champion.
Former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander "I am beat you" Schlemenko made his Bellator debut, defeating Matt Major by unanimous decision in a season two middleweight quarterfinal bout. Schlemenko went on to win the tournament before losing to champion Hector Lombard in his shot at the middleweight championship.
1999: The most infamous bout in Pride FC occurred at Pride 5, with Mark Coleman losing to Nobuhiko Takada via heel hook in a fixed match. At the start of round two, Coleman got a double leg landing in side control and then put himself back into Takada's guard. Shortly afterwards he stands and then "gets caught" in the heel hook. I encourage you to go watch the finishing sequence because it is pretty bad and hearing Stephen Quadros say "what the hell?!" is great.
1986: Former UFC lightweight Dustin Hazelett was born.
1983: UFC strawweight Valerie Letourneau was born.
Think I missed a spot? Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.