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Rory MacDonald says winning PFL title would be his greatest achievement: ‘The hardest thing I’ve done in my career’

Matt Ferris / PFL

Rory MacDonald has tackled a lot of challenges during his career, but nothing has tested him quite like the rigors of two seasons with the PFL.

The one-time UFC title contender and ex-Bellator welterweight champion has faced plenty of obstacles during his career, including his all-time great fight against Robbie Lawler, as well as moving up a division in an attempt to claim a second Bellator world title. But nothing has put more strain on him than the relentless nature of the PFL schedule.

“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my career,” MacDonald told MMA Fighting. “It’s a huge challenge physically and mentally to get through it. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of stress on the body and the mind.

“It’s been extremely difficult, extremely hard to manage it, to be honest. I learned a little bit from last year, but I’d be lying if I said it’s not been a struggle this year. It is what it is. You have to be a really strong guy to get through the season and the playoffs in the PFL.”

Through five fights in the promotion, MacDonald has posted a 2-3 record overall, though that includes a very controversial split decision loss to Gleison Tibau in 2021 that most believe he should have won. MacDonald came up short in another close decision in his most recent fight against striker Sadibou Sy, but he still earned a spot in the playoffs based on his dominant win over Brett Cooper to start the season.

Now as he prepares to face late replacement Dilano Taylor on Saturday in Wales, MacDonald has once again put himself through the ringer to get ready for another fight just six weeks after he endured a grueling, three-round battle.

“It’s been a challenge,” MacDonald said. “I would have liked to rest. It’s not the funnest time to be in the training camp again after two fights and two training camps. It’s been a lot of training. Just trying to push myself to get through it and then get a little bit of a break when preparing for the finals if I can beat this guy.

“I’m pretty much taking it as my championship fight. That’s the way I have to see it against every guy in the PFL. Guys can come in as alternates or guys I’ve never heard of, so I have to be at my best because these guys are going to bring it. They want to make a name and they want that money. I’m going to fight them tooth and nail to get to that position.”

MacDonald has seen first-hand just how tough it has been for other fighters to adapt to the PFL format, where athletes can compete up to four times over a six- or seven-month span in order to win a championship and take home the $1 million grand prize.

In his own division, MacDonald only has Sy as a returning competitor from last year’s playoffs, which speaks to the difficulty of even getting back to this point in back-to-back seasons.

“It’s really tough field to go out there and compete against these guys year after year,” MacDonald said. “PFL is no joke. You’ve got to be one of the best in the world to get through this. It’s an honor to compete against these guys who are grinding through it the same as me.”

Even after claiming a Bellator title and holding wins over names such as Nate Diaz, B.J. Penn, Tyron Woodley, and Demian Maia, MacDonald admits that capturing a PFL title later this year would likely be considered his greatest feat yet.

“From personal experience, it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve had to do to win a championship in my career,” MacDonald said. “The back-to-back fights, it’s a huge challenge. It would probably be my biggest achievement personally.”

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