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Amidst mixed signals, Rory MacDonald expects to fight Neiman Gracie next

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Rory MacDonald, who had just retained his Bellator welterweight title by going to a majority draw with Jon Fitch, seemed to question his fighting career moments after the fight ended Saturday night at Bellator 220.

After the show, MacDonald still didn’t feel like he had all the answers. But he said he expected to continue competing in Bellator’s eight-man tournament, and would defend his title against Neiman Gracie on June 14 in Madison Square Garden.

In the cage, after the decision was read — which was very unpopular, given Fitch was fighting in his hometown and dominated the fifth round in what appeared to be a close fight — it appeared MacDonald (21-6) questioned his future in the sport.

“It’s hard to pull the trigger,” he said. “I don’t have that killer instinct. It’s hard to explain.

“It takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain, and I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore.”

A few hours later, MacDonald clarified that statement saying, “I was expressing what I felt in my heart what I was going through, trying to be honest.”

While some thought his statement meant that he shouldn’t be put back in a championship fight so quickly, he made it clear he wasn’t saying that.

“I’m going to sit back, pray, and see what God has in store for me,” he said. “My plans are to go to the next stage and compete against Neiman.”

When asked if he would be ready to take the Gracie fight so soon after a grinding five-rounder, he responded, ”Yeah, I’m pretty sure. I have a little cut. It should heal up. The stitches should be out in a week. A week after that, I should be back to normal. I have a swollen elbow, but that should go down pretty fast.”

In the fight, Fitch clearly won rounds three and five. MacDonald clearly won round two. The other two rounds were close. Two of the three judges gave MacDonald both close rounds, but all three judges gave Fitch a 10-8 third round, meaning two judges had it as a 47-47 draw. The third judge had it for Fitch, 48-46. The majority draw meant the title stayed with MacDonald. By virtue of that, he advanced in the tournament.

“I thought I was up three rounds to two,” said MacDonald. “When it’s a judge’s decision, you never know. You can win five rounds and still lose a judge’s decision.”

Bellator CEO Scott Coker said that if this was not a championship fight, and it was a draw, that the judges knew beforehand that with the even cards they would then have to pick a winner and that person would advance. Coker didn’t commit to the idea that if MacDonald won’t be ready for MSG, that Fitch, who has said that he would be ready, would move on in his place.

“He’s very emotional, looking inward on the fight and the future,” said Coker. “Listen, if he wants to fight, he will. We expect Rory to fight Neiman. If that changes, we’ll let you know.

“This was a championship fight and the champion didn’t get beat, and that’s why Rory is moving forward.”

But still, MacDonald said he’s become a lot closer to God, and he believes God has other things in store for him.

“I think God has another chapter in my life,” said MacDonald. “I don’t feel like I’m just going to be a fighter. As I move forward and closer to God I think he’s got something for me and I can feel it in my heart, as I keep making steps walking closer to God, I feel it more and more. I feel another door opening. What it is, I don’t know.”

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