Rory MacDonald will indeed continue on with his mixed martial arts career.
The reigning Bellator welterweight champion released a lengthy statement Tuesday confirming that he will defend his title against undefeated black belt Neiman Gracie on June 14 at Bellator 222 in a semifinal bout of the promotion’s welterweight grand prix.
Questions have surrounded MacDonald’s fighting future following his Bellator 220 bout against Jon Fitch this past weekend, which saw MacDonald advance in the welterweight tournament and retain his belt with a majority draw decision.
After the bout, in a moment of rare candor, MacDonald expressed doubts about his desire to continue fighting.
“It’s hard to pull the trigger,” he told Bellator commentator John McCarthy in his post-fight interview at Bellator 220. “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.”
There were initially questions over whether that meant MacDonald was retiring or if he would continue on in the Bellator grand prix, but “The Red King” put those uncertainties to rest Tuesday afternoon. His full statement can be read below, via Bellator officials.
“I want to take the time to thank everybody who had the chance to see my fight last weekend and share that candid moment I had in the Bellator cage with John McCarthy.
“I felt an internal struggle during the fight I never experienced before. I have always enjoyed my time in the cage by expressing my techniques in full out combat against another top-level fighter, but this time I wasn’t enjoying it. It felt more like a job than the satisfaction I am used to feeling by being dominant and applying what I have practiced to defeat someone.
“Even during my dominant moments, I felt I was completing a task and these feelings were a bit confusing to me because it’s new. I used to fight with anger I held within myself from pain I had experienced in my past. To be honest, I believe this comes from my heart changing as I’m walking a new life as a Christian. The Lord has given me peace and freedom from the pain that haunted me in my heart from my younger years. I would only satisfy myself for a short period of time from winning fights until the feeling would resonate in me again. So, now I don’t feel the same emotions I have in the past while competing.
“I still and will always have a passion for martial arts and do not believe, as a Christian, that it’s wrong for myself to compete in a professional sport that is violent. In fact, I’m happy to testify about being a Christian on this platform I’ve been given.
“To be clear, I am not retiring from my professional MMA career, I’ve always been true and honest in the sport and I spoke from the heart.
“As for my career at the moment. I am going to move forward in this tournament and compete boldly against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14.
“Thank you for your support and all the kind messages I’ve received after this sentimental moment I had for all to see after 14 years of being in this sport.”
Bellator 222 takes place at New York’s Madison Square Garden and streams live on DAZN. Chael Sonnen and Lyoto Machida clash in the night’s light heavyweight main event. Additionally, Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell is slated to rematch RIZIN titleholder Kyoji Horiguchi in a cross-promotional bout on the night’s main card.