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Morning Report: Firas Zahabi doesn’t believe Rory MacDonald will be retiring soon: ‘The kid’s a natural-born fighter’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On Saturday night, Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald fought to a majority draw against Jon Fitch. It was an unsatisfying outcome for the welterweight grand prix tournament bout, not just because of the inconclusiveness of it, but because of MacDonald’s brutally honest post-fight comments.

After the draw, wherein MacDonald would advance by virtue of being the current champion and having successfully retained his title, MacDonald was extremely open about his performance and how he wasn’t sure if he had the same fight in him that he once did.

“I feel like God has really called me the last little while and, I don’t know,” MacDonald said. “He’s changed my spirit, changed my heart and it takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain and stuff and I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore. I don’t know what it is but it’s confusing. I know the Lord has something in store for me, he was speaking to me in here tonight and, I don’t know, it’s a different feeling.

“I have to get out of here and reevaluate. We’ll see what happens. Tonight was a mix of emotions in here. I landed some good stuff but there was something different.”

It’s tough not to view those comments as a man who may be close to hanging up his gloves. But that may be premature, or at least, so says MacDonald’s coach Firas Zahabi. Speaking with Ariel Helwani yesterday, Zahabi said he thinks this is just part of the natural progression of Rory, from a young teenager to a grown man with a family.

“He’s a family man now,” Zahabi said. “He has another kid on the way, he’s maturing. I think he understands the realities of fighting a little bit better. He’s seen the dark side of fighting, he’s seen the good side, the bad side, and that’s what concerns me as a coach. For me, fighting is always safety first. The way we train, the way we spar, I never put their health at risk.

“When you’re younger and you don’t have a family, all you do is worry about yourself and you’re more of a cowboy, you’re more of a risk taker, but as you mature you start to understand the importance of your health and other people’s health as well. Especially when you have a family, I feel like it’s normal to have that kind of outlook.”

Zahabi has trained MacDonald for almost a decade. MacDonald made his professional debut when he was only 16 years old, fighting his way into the UFC by the age of 21. After his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 115, MacDonald moved to TriStar Gym and began working with Zahabi. And given their history, Zahabi says that is Rory wants to retire, he will support the decision. But he thinks this is not the end for MacDonald.

“A lot of fighters go through these kinds of things,” Zahabi said. “He’s not the first guy to see both sides of fighting - the good part, the darker part - and then kind of come to these realizations. So I wasn’t surprised. I’ve heard him talk about it publicly, I’ve seen the headlines. We have talked. I know him so well - I watched him grow up in my gym - so I see what’s going on with him. I see the direction that he’s taking and it’s up to him. It’s his decision, it’s his life, it’s his career.”

“I think the pendulum always swings the other way as well. He’s gonna feel that way now and then tomorrow he may get over it and then he might feel that way again. It’s normal to have mixed feelings. He’s still in a $1 million tournament. He still has fights booked. These are normal emotions, especially after a fight. You’re so full of emotions right after a fight like that. So I think he was just being honest but again, the pendulum might swing the other way. He might wake up today be like, ‘You know what, let’s do this. Let’s fight. Let’s continue.’ And I think that’s what’s going to happen.

“The kid’s a natural-born fighter, and I feel like he’s going to continue on his journey.”

MacDonald may have to make a decision rather quickly. Bellator’s tentative plan for the next stage of their tournament is to have MacDonald defend his title against Neiman Gracie in the semifinals of the grand prix on June 14. That six-week turnaround would be tight, and ultimately up to MacDonald, but Zahabi said if his fighter is good with it, he’s good with it.

“That’s very tight,” Zahabi said. “It’s up to Rory. He’s going to have to assess his body. Is he ready for another weight cut? Is he ready to go back to training? That’s really him. . .

“[But] I would say take the fight. Ultimately it’s the fighter’s decision but I think he beats Neiman, I think he moves onto the main event, it’s a million dollar fight. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. He gets a chance to defend his title again. Being world champion is a serious thing. Sometimes you are only world champion once and this is a great time. I think he’ll look back at his life in the future, he’ll look back at these title defenses, these fights, and he’ll be really happy with them.”


Rematch. Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Darrion Caldwell 2 set for Bellator 222.

Nope. Jack Hermansson says he was ‘so close’ to submitting ‘Jacare’ Souza with guillotine.

Hope. Kayla Harrison hopes PFL tournament leads to flood of heavier women’s talent.

Moreno. Brandon Moreno opens up about departure from UFC, future in MMA.

$$$. Bellator 220 salaries: Rory MacDonald leads field with $200,000 purse.


Pros predict.

BTS of the Joe Rogan podcast.

JDS with the Schmo.

Khabib and the squad at UFC St. Petersburg.

Mike Perry and Brian Ortega on TMZ.


The Co-Main Event. Discussing UFC Fort Lauderdale and Bellator 220.

Anik & Florian. Recapping UFC Fort Lauderdale and previewing UFC Ottowa.



Feels like a lot of fighters might be interested in this one.

Dana may actually having some boxing stuff brewing.

Cracked jaw.


Lookin for a fight.

Too bad they just fought.

The Gospel of Izzy.

Stipe finally gonna fight again?


Kyoji Horiguchi (27-2) vs. Darrion Caldwell (13-2); Bellator 222, June 14.

Paul Craig (11-3) vs. Alonzo Menifield (8-0); UFC Minneapolis, June 29.


2011: Georges St-Pierre successfully defended his welterweight title with a unanimous decision win over Jake Shields at UFC 129. In the co-main event, Jose Aldo made his UFC debut, defending his featherweight title with a win over Mark Hominick. This night also featured the final fight of Randy Couture’s career, a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



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