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Rory MacDonald won’t fight in New Jersey again after PFL 5 judging travesty against Gleison Tibau

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Rory MacDonald has no doubt whatsoever that he defeated Gleison Tibau in his most recent fight no matter what two judges said on the scorecards.

In the three-round welterweight bout, MacDonald seemingly locked up an easy decision after landing more strikes and largely controlling the pace of the fight. Tibau came after him aggressively for the better part of 15 minutes, but connected on far fewer shots.

While he didn’t get the finish, MacDonald was more than confident he had secured the win until the scores were actually read out loud. Two judges — Cardo Urso and Dave Tirelli — scored the fight for Tibau while judge Eric Colon was the only one to give it to MacDonald.

Fortunately for MacDonald, he had already secured enough points in his first fight of the season to move on to the PFL playoffs but it didn’t negate a loss on his record, which is what really stings most.

“It doesn’t hold me back from going forward in the future. It’s just a bit of a stain on my record,” MacDonald said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It eased the pain knowing that the broad majority of people, like 99.9 percent of people with their comments and messages supported me and that I won the fight. That kind of eases it. I’ve lost fights, I haven’t gotten decisions in the past even though I thought I won the fight but it wasn’t quite as obvious as this one. It feels good to have the public support plus it doesn’t hinder me going in in the playoffs. It doesn’t affect the money I made but if this were the playoffs and it did affect me, it could have been a really terrible thing.

“This commission that was in charge of judging has obviously got something wrong with it. It’s a real shame that this is happening at the highest level in our sport still.”

On the night of the fight, MacDonald was understandably upset by the split decision loss but he still wanted to go back and watch his performance again just to erase any doubt about the result.

“I watched it twice after and the first time that I watched it, it was very obvious that I won the fight,” MacDonald said. “The second time it was even more so. The closer you watch that fight, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s crazy.”

Despite sanctioned mixed martial arts taking place in the United States for more than 20 years, inconsistent judging has continued to plague the sport with at least one or two questionable scorecards at almost every major event.

MacDonald hopes that institutional changes can be made so that more competent judges are deciding the fights and he might even look to tackle that problem once his own fighting career is behind him.

“There’s always something that could be done,” MacDonald explained. “It’s just the effort and the will of whoever wants to go in and attack it. Maybe after my fight career, it’s something I could pursue.

“It takes someone who has some influence in the sport and power behind them to kind of change the way things are going in our sport.”

Moving forward, MacDonald’s PFL first playoff appearance takes place in Florida as opposed to his previous two bouts in New Jersey, which is where the split decision loss to Tibau was rendered.

Thanks to the egregious scoring that left a sour taste in his mouth, MacDonald has decided that he will no longer compete in the Garden State, especially given the way that particular loss could have adversely affected his career.

“Moving forward, I will never fight for that commission in that state ever again. That’s for sure,” MacDonald said. “If they were going to put the fights in New Jersey again, it would just be without me. Cause I can’t go and take that chance again with my career. Because these things have a way of affecting your career with your contract negotiations and things.

“Obviously the mass majority of people, basically everybody saw it for me besides his own team. Luckily for me, it probably won’t be that way but it’s just we’ve got to have competent judging. We’ve got to have fair people in these judging seats and people that aren’t taking advantage of the system.”

For now, MacDonald is only thinking about his upcoming fight against Ray Cooper III, which will headline the first PFL playoff card of 2021.

Cooper was the 2019 PFL champion and he’s a hard-charging power puncher with good wrestling and a high finishing rate, which is something that definitely excites MacDonald when looking at the matchup.

MacDonald has typically done well with those kinds of opponents in the past and he anticipates a very fun fight with Cooper come Friday night.

“I think he’s really good. I’m a fan of his fighting style,” MacDonald said about Cooper. “He’s very aggressive. He fights with a lot of emotion and passion so I’m looking forward to going in there and competing with him.

“I definitely think I can [take advantage of his aggressiveness]. I believe in my skills to be able to neutralize aggressive fighters and I’ve practiced my techniques against every style of opponent. Short, tall, aggressive, counter punchers, whatever, wrestlers. I feel like my experience and my technique will be able to go in there and take this guy out.”

If all goes well this weekend, MacDonald will move on to the finals where he will face the winner of the other playoff matchup between Magomed Magomedkerimov and Sadibou Sy. If he becomes the PFL champion, MacDonald also takes home the $1 million grand prize, which is obviously a very nice bonus at the end of the season.

That remains his only concern for now but after Tibau touted his performance in that split decision victory following their meeting in June, MacDonald definitely hopes they cross paths again.

“I’ve seen other people win bad decisions and they didn’t celebrate it,” MacDonald said about Tibau. “They were humble in understanding their position of how the fight went on. So I thought it was a bit of a bad character move to relish in a victory that you clearly didn’t win. To be that blind to reality of the situation that you lost and to celebrate it and to go in public interviews to say he clearly won, it just seems so foolish and blind to me. Maybe it’s a projection of his own character but it’s just a shame that he can’t even admit himself that he lost that fight. I find it ridiculous. If it was the other way around, I wouldn’t be putting my hand up celebrating that.

“Next season, sure I would love to [fight him again] and I’d like to put him away. I’d like to step it up with a finish next time. We’ll see how this season goes, I’m just focusing on that now that this is behind me. I have a big fight with Ray coming up and I’m just looking forward at that and that alone. But if things go well the rest of the season, I’m sure he’ll be on my list for next season.”