Rory MacDonald had racked up a lot of memories — both good and bad — over his 15 year career spent as a fighter.
While he initially hoped to add more of them in 2020 after inking a multi-fight deal with the PFL, the 30-year-old Canadian is currently waiting for the chance to compete again after the promotion opted to delay their season until next year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In the wake of that decision, MacDonald has stayed active with his training, but it’s also given him time to reflect on the major accomplishments he’s achieved as well as the biggest mistakes he’s made since deciding to make MMA his focus when he was still just a teenager.
“I kind of slip under the radar the fact that I’m only 30 years old and I’ve kind of been involved in the sport coming up on 17 years I’ve been in involved in mixed martial arts,” MacDonald said when speaking to MMA Fighting ahead of a new documentary series about his career titled Red King Rundown that recently launched on YouTube. “More than half my life, I’ve been focused on this sport. It’s been my life’s work.
“I’m excited for this new journey with PFL. Being a fighter in my 30s now, I feel like everything’s coming together in my life and in my own head, my approach to fighting. I think I’m going to have some really good years ahead of me. Make a name for myself, a legacy for myself in the sport.”
For all the things that MacDonald has achieved, he actually goes all the way back to 2009 to target what might be the proudest moment of his career.
At that time, he was an 8-0 prospect just trying to get noticed by the UFC.
“I have a bunch of really special moments that I cherish,” MacDonald explained. “Something that was really special to me was right before my UFC career, my coach and my manager, we were talking with [matchmakers] Sean Shelby or Joe Silva and basically I had gotten bigger as a teenager and I was starting to move up to welterweight. I was a lightweight fighter. But they wanted me to get a couple wins at welterweight before bringing me in.
“So I had two fights basically on my contract with King of the Cage and I fought two welterweight fights. I remember that last fight and I won, I just had a ‘I did it’ [moment]. I made it to the next level, what I’ve been dreaming about getting into the UFC. So that was a pretty special moment.”
MacDonald went on to make quite a few good memories in the UFC before leaving the organization to sign a deal with Bellator MMA.
In only his second fight for the Viacom-owned promotion, he became welterweight champion with a win over Douglas Lima. That set him up for an even bigger opportunity when MacDonald was offered the chance to move up to 185 pounds and challenge for a second title against then-middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi.
Leading up to the event, MacDonald said all the right things about becoming a two-division champion but he can honestly say now that his public presence didn’t match the fighter actually preparing for a showdown with an opponent as lethal as Mousasi.
“If I had to pick one [biggest regret], it would be my preparation leading up to the [Gegard] Mousasi fight,” MacDonald revealed. “That was a huge opportunity and I didn’t take it serious enough. Obviously, I got absolutely crushed.
“I can’t cry over spilled milk now. It is what it is. I just have to learn from it and persevere to get where I want to go.”
As he anxiously anticipates his next fight, MacDonald has learned from that mistake and many more that have cost him over the years.
Now as he plans to pursue another title and the $1 million prize in the PFL welterweight tournament, MacDonald promises that he’s found a new level of motivation and focus that he hopes to carry through the end of his career.
“I don’t enjoy going into a fight and then having regrets afterwards,” MacDonald said. “My career as a 20-year-old, there were ups and downs and things I’m really happy with but there are a lot of things I have regrets about. Now I’m a 30-year-old with a family and there’s only a certain amount of time to be in this sport and do what you want to do and then it’s over. There’s the next chapter.
“I had to wake up a little bit and be serious over these next bunch of years. I can’t just keep fooling around every other fight. Have a few good fights and then get unfocused again and have a couple bad fights. I really have to stay the course and stay focused. That’s where my head’s at.”