Even in defeat in his most recent fight, Rory MacDonald seemed confident that his future would remain in Bellator MMA.
As a former welterweight champion with high profile wins over Douglas Lima, Paul Daley and Neiman Gracie, MacDonald felt like he would eventually come to an agreement with the Viacom-owned promotion on a new contract.
Instead, the PFL announced on Wednesday that they had signed MacDonald to an exclusive contract, which brought his six-fight run with Bellator to a close. It was a stunning move, but according to MacDonald, Bellator actually didn’t pursue him for a new deal as his free agency period was approaching, nor did they attempt to match the offer made by the PFL.
“[The deal with PFL] came about after a period of time, we had to give Bellator some time to give us an offer, but we never heard anything from them,” MacDonald told MMA Fighting hours after the announcement was made. “So we exercised to negotiate with other companies and PFL really stepped up.
“I haven’t heard anything from Bellator. It’s hard for me to say where they stand on it. No, [they didn’t make an offer]. I was a bit surprised but I think God’s hand was on this whole thing and he worked it out for my good so I’m really thankful for the Lord that he’s blessed me with this opportunity.”
Following the news that MacDonald signed with PFL, Bellator CEO Scott Coker released a statement to MMA Fighting’s Steven Marrocco regarding the former welterweight champion moving on.
“We’re happy for him and we wish him well,” Coker said. “How I feel if there’s a fighter that we really want to keep, we would keep them. I think if you view the historical data, the fighters in Strikeforce or even in Bellator, if we wanted to keep them on the roster, we’ve been able to do it.”
Coker did not want to expand beyond that statement.
As far as MacDonald’s future goes, he feels like the PFL will be a perfect for him, especially at this stage in his career, where he’s mostly focused on becoming a better martial artist while providing for his family.
MacDonald has never been much for trash talk in order to promote his fights, and with the PFL format set up as a regular season and playoff format like many of the major sports’ leagues in the United States, he’s confident this will give him a chance to thrive in his new environment.
“It’s perfect for fighters,” MacDonald said. “We need to have options to see what fits our goals and have different offers out there to see what fits for us. PFL fit really perfectly for me. I’m really excited about the offer and the opportunities I have with them. I’m excited about their schedule, as far as their season format. It’s performance based. There’s no reason to have to trash talk. With the current format, fans get to appreciate fighters for who they are and what martial arts is all about.
“PFL also does a great job telling individual fighter’s stories, which nowadays it’s all about drama and putting on a bigger show than what you are. That really speaks to me. Being on ESPN, having a huge crowd to see my fights. Obviously, the $1 million prize is huge. Another thing I really like are the two fights in one night for the quarter and semifinals. That’s really intriguing for me.”
MacDonald will be joining the welterweight division for the next PFL season, which will kick off sometime during the spring in 2020. PFL won’t determine the participants in that draw until a later date, but the 30-year-old Canadian can’t wait to see his competition.
“I’m really looking forward to see what the brackets are going to be for next year,” he said. “They’ve got some great talent now that are going to be there next year, but that’s the exciting thing about PFL, there’s always going to be a mix up for every season. That’s another exciting feature. You never know who’s going to jump into the line-up the next season.”
When it comes to the end of his relationship with Bellator, MacDonald says he holds no ill will toward them whatsoever and leaves the organization on good terms, much the same way he exited the UFC in 2016.
“I left off with the UFC on good terms,” MacDonald said. “I always respected them in my interviews and I appreciated all they had done for me. I’m just moving on and doing what’s best for my business and my family. The same goes for Bellator.
“A lot of great things happened together. I’m happy with what we did together and you never know what will happen down the road. I never want to burn bridges with someone. I like to show respect and appreciation.”