Last August, when Rory MacDonald signed a contract with Bellator, it was considered a coup for the promotion to land a 27-year old fighter coming off a Fight of the Year candidate (against Robbie Lawler) and a headlining spot in his home country of Canada (against Stephen Thompson). It was also considered by many confounding that the UFC — his home for 13 fights — would let him walk.
Now, after MacDonald’s second-round submission victory over Paul Daley at Bellator 179 in London on Friday, Bellator looks like it scored a fighter still well within his prime. MacDonald made Daley tap via a rear-naked choke in a fight that he said he never even got him once.
MacDonald is now poised to face the winner of the welterweight title fight between Douglas Lima and Lorenz Larkin, which takes place June 24 at Madison Square Garden. During an interview on The MMA Hour on Monday, MacDonald said he believes that his performance in London was a statement as to what the UFC let “slip through its fingers.”
“Absolutely, I opened a lot of eyes I think, and I’m sure the management over at the UFC feels the same way,” he said. “But we’re in the shoes that we are now, and I’m going to continue my journey the way I fought on Friday, and we’ll see where we are the next contract negotiation. But I’m very happy with Bellator, and I hope they are with me too. So, I foresee a good, long-term relationship with each other.”
MacDonald opted to fight his UFC contract out against Thompson last June, to ultimately gauge his worth in free agency. Bellator didn’t waste a lot of time in landing MacDonald, who holds victories over both UFC champion Tyron Woodley and Woodley’s likely next challenge, Demian Maia. It was perhaps the single biggest free agency get, considering where MacDonald is in his career, and what he’s capable of.
MacDonald said that his handling should be a cautionary tale for the UFC, who let him get away.
“Maybe [the UFC] should be a little more cautious on how easy they let things slip through their fingers,” he said. “Because, like I’ve tried to say in the past, fighters can’t always be on 24/7 every single time they step into the ring. So you have to allow for these performances that aren’t up to par, that you would normally see. I think they definitely messed up when they let me go. That’s their fault and Bellator’s gain, you know?”
As for his new digs in Bellator, MacDonald said he was very pleased with the way the promotion handled a busy fight week in the United Kingdom.
“I thought it was fantastic,” he said of his Bellator experience. “I was very happy with it. Everything went very smooth. Probably the best weigh-in procedure I’ve ever been through. It was very comfortable and smooth the way they ran it. Didn’t give me any headaches as far as running around and suffering for a long time. I was very happy with the weigh-in procedure.
“As far as media, it was awesome. They really respected what I need out of fight week, but at the same time promoting the fight. We worked together and we got the job done, and it was done right. I was very happy with the way Bellator treated me and everything leading up.”
On Friday night, Bellator tweeted out a picture of MacDonald — still in his suit — presumably getting his hands wrapped and trying on his gloves. Turns out it was just the latter.
On the show, MacDonald divulged that he didn’t bother mummifying his hands before the Daley fight.
“I’m not going to wrap my hands anymore,” he said. “I realized I don’t really like doing it.”
“It feels better. Especially with the Bellator gloves, they’re a lot better than the UFC gloves for making a natural fit. It’s a lot more comfortable.”
As MacDonald was coming back from 11 months off to let his nose full heal after the Lawler and “Wonderboy” fights, he said he not only attended to some of the flaws in his game and his life, he also deliberated over wraps. Namely, not wearing them anymore.
“I never train with wraps,” he said. “I’ve always found that they kind of cut off blood flow when you’re grappling as well, because you’re flexing your forearms and grips and things. It’s just something I decided wasn’t for me anymore.”