Before a trilogy fight could get put together, MacDonald signed with the Professional Fighters League.
Lima became the Bellator welterweight champion for the third time by defeating MacDonald in the finals of the division’s Grand Prix at Bellator 232. Following the event’s headliner this past October, Scott Coker said he was open to a trilogy fight to break the 1-1 tie.
Before that fight could be put together, MacDonald elected not to re-sign with the promotion in lieu of the PFL — which was something Lima didn’t see coming.
“I’m happy for him,” Lima told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I’m happy that he’s moving on and that he’s looking out for himself. I was definitely shocked and surprised that he moved over there but I guess he got a better deal. I’m happy for him and I’m happy we got to share those 50 minutes.”
The first meeting between the two took place at Bellator 192, an event that was featured on the debut episode of Bellator MMA Recharged on the CBS Sports Network April 25. MacDonald would capture his first world title via unanimous decision in an absolute war of attrition in the main event.
It’s never fun to talk about a loss, but it was a night that changed a lot for Lima.
“I definitely learned (more on) the mental side of fighting,” Lima explained. “Rory was pretty much done after that fourth round and he still came back, got a quick takedown at the beginning of the round and won the fight. Just being able to push through those barriers in a fight is not for everybody. I really learned from him that night to keep fighting no matter what the circumstances.
“I’m very thankful for that moment with him. It was a grueling fight, especially for him with that crazy injury from the leg kicks. It’s cool for people to see what he went through in that fight. It’s an important lesson he taught me that night.”
The next step for Lima was to fight Gegard Mousasi for the vacant middleweight title at Bellator 242 on May 9. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Had MacDonald not gone on to the next chapter, there very well could’ve been a third fight in the work for the 170-pound strap.
With his multi-time opponent gone, Lima was asked if he was a bummed that he wasn’t able to break the tie with MacDonald in the Bellator cage.
“Yes and no,” Lima said. “We’ve had 50 minutes already in the cage and I definitely learned from that (first) fight. I don’t think I’d ever lose to him again to be honest. It would definitely be good to have a trilogy to really make sure who’s the better fighter.
“You never know what’s gonna happen in the MMA world. We might cross each other’s paths in the future.”