It was a triumphant Bellator debut for Rory MacDonald on Friday in London, as he took out Paul Daley in one of his most dominant performances to date. That second round submission was the first in what MacDonald hopes is a historic year in the “third chapter” of his career.
The 27-year old MacDonald, who signed with Bellator last August after 13 fights in the UFC, is next in line to fight the winner of Douglas Lima versus Lorenz Larkin for the welterweight title. He will find out who that is on June 24 when Bellator takes the cage to Madison Square Garden for the first time.
After that? He wants to go up in weight and take a second title, too.
“I’d like to fight for the middleweight title maybe at the end of the year, if there’s a big card that we could promote and get me and the middleweight champion on there,” MacDonald said during an interview on The MMA Hour. “Obviously not looking past the welterweight championship fight. Just saying if everything goes as planned, if everything’s hunky dory, an end of the year show for the middleweight title would be fantastic.”
If MacDonald has his way, he’ll fight for the welterweight title in early fall.
“Yeah, I’m hoping September,” he told Ariel Helwani.
MacDonald snapped a two-fight losing streak against Daley, and he did it with a he called a renewed motivation. A longtime member of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, MacDonald split time between the East Coast and his home gym in Kelowna, British Columbia, where he was working with his old coach Dave Lea. The emphasis heading in was to focus on the things he does well, rather than trying to incorporate so many new facets to his game.
In other words, MacDonald went back to basics after losing an out-and-out war against Robbie Lawler and a decision against Stephen Thompson to end his UFC run. He said that the feeling he had after tapping out Daley was one of elation.
“I was in my moment, I was in my element there,” he said. “I fought like myself. I just never felt more clear and right going into a fight. Everything was just perfect for that fight. I couldn’t ask for anything better. And I’m just so stoked on just finally getting momentum, and now I get to go ahead and stay busy with my career, and keep getting bigger fights all the time.”
MacDonald has been critical of some of his recent performances, and said he made a point of changing his attitude heading into the fight with Daley. What was different? He carried a mindset of wanting to “crush” Daley, rather than simply showcase his skill set.
It was a change that paid dividends.
“The Stephen Thompson fight was probably the worst for me,” he said. “The Jake Ellenberger fight I wasn’t thrilled with. There’s been a couple, thinks like that, where I feel like I outclass — like some of the fights I even won — like I outclass the guy, I outpoint them, but I never really go in with the mindset of I want to crush this guy. I want to destroy him in every single way possible. Just going in with that attitude and delivering. Sometimes I just was more happy with just outpointing and just showing my martial arts skill, rather than expressing what’s within me. I feel like I’m in tune with that now, and that’s what I’m going to deliver to the people now.”
Though Daley has one of the deadliest punches in the division, MacDonald said he emerged in good condition — “100 percent, I didn’t get touched once I don’t think,” he said — and hopes that he can parlay that big performance into golden ones.
And he’s also hopeful that he’ll get to headline a Bellator card in Canada at some point. When he was in the UFC he helped sell out shows in Nova Scotia and the nation’s capital of Ottawa. He believes he can do it again, though he says it likely won’t be this year.
“From what I’ve heard it’s 2018, because I think of the time it takes to plan I and everything they have in place for the rest of 2017,” he said. “But they know that I’m down whenever they’re ready. The ball’s in their court as far as getting the show to Canada.”