An argument could be made that Bellator champion Rory MacDonald is the best welterweight in all of mixed martial arts right now but he’s never going to be the one to stir up that discussion.
When asked directly about his standing in the division as he prepares to face Douglas Lima in the finals of the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix, the 14-year veteran believes without a doubt that he could return to the UFC right now and defeat the best fighters at 170 pounds.
“I don’t think about it often so I guess it’s not my biggest concern to answer your question but I’m confident that if I’m put in there with the champion of the UFC, or the top contenders, that I would win,” MacDonald told MMA Fighting.
That said, MacDonald no longer spends much time lamenting those kinds of questions.
In the current landscape of the sport, the 30-year old Canadian has found that oftentimes the loudest person with the biggest microphone in front of them and the most cameras pointed in their direction ends up receiving the accolades and that’s just not a game he’s willing to play.
“This sport is pretty media-based now,” MacDonald said. “It’s a lot about who’s in the limelight gets the credit rather than what the accomplishments are. Sometimes people lose sight of that and just because the camera’s on them a little bit more and they get more credit than maybe they deserve.
“But to be honest, I’m not really worried about it. That’s not really my motivating factor to be consider the greatest at the moment or of all time. That really doesn’t go through my mind at all.”
Rather than losing himself in the monotony of trash talking opponents or touting himself as the best in the world, MacDonald has found a different kind of motivation driving him recently.
Part of that comes from becoming a father to two children and the other was MacDonald’s newfound faith that he has spoken about openly in recent months.
In fact it was MacDonald’s inner struggle with his religion and the job that requires him to punch people in the face for a living that had him questioning his own future earlier this year.
“There’s a lot of reasons to fight now,” MacDonald explained. “A big one is to provide for my family. I would think that’s one of the main things that motivates me. Obviously, being a born-again Christian and I was pretty open about that after the Jon Fitch fight, because this was all new, a lot of changes were happening in my life.
“I didn’t know what that all meant as a mixed martial artist and the fact that I have this audience, this stage to tell about God’s goodness and the good news of Jesus is a huge motivating factor. So those two combined are things that have me motivated to keep doing this. Obviously the love of martial arts and competing. Those three things I guess.”
In some ways, MacDonald staying focused on what matters most has allowed him to avoid the sea of negativity that can surround the biggest fights in the sport.
While trash talk has been a part of athletics for far longer than anyone had a Twitter account, MacDonald acknowledges that it’s nearly impossible to avoid that part of combat sports, especially in 2019.
“Fighting’s always had that edge to it. It feels like we’ve really turned a corner these past few years on that being the main way of getting the audience’s attention in the sport,” MacDonald said. “In my opinion, it’s for the worse. I mean obviously it’s brought a lot of eyes to the sport, it also brings a lot of negativity to it. I’m not innocent as far as trash talk. I’ve tried to dabble in it to get some attention but since I really gave my life to Christ and the changes that God has done in my person and it’s continuing to develop, I obviously have no interest in being hateful.
“I don’t have that in my person anymore. Being a new creation from my acceptance in Jesus Christ, that’s not who I am. I’m definitely not going to fake it. Being a Christian should be about telling the good things, sharing the good news that the Lord can change us for the better. I want to be an agent for that.”
As he prepares for his fight against Lima at Bellator 232, the reigning welterweight champion doesn’t have a bad word to say about his opponent outside of the fact that he expects to win when they clash on Saturday night.
At the end of the day, MacDonald sees himself as a competitor and the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix has helped to bring out the best in him and he wants to prove that again when facing Lima for the second time.
“I believe it’s the pinnacle of my career right now,” MacDonald said. “Going out there and putting on my best performance would mean a lot to me. I’ve put a lot of work over the years and it’s brought me to this point so I want to go out there and show the best version of myself. I think that would mean a lot to me to go out and have a great performance.”
While the first fight ended with his hand being raised, MacDonald looked like he had been through a car crash by the time he spent 25 minutes in the cage with Lima.
As much as fans might be excited for a second dose of that this weekend, MacDonald doesn’t expect the rematch to look anything like the first fight and he believes his performance is what everybody will be talking about come Sunday.
“I actually don’t think it will [be a war],” MacDonald said. “In my heart, I believe I will be a lot more dominant in this fight and I will close the show before the final bell.”