Rory MacDonald is usually the quiet type, but with the UFC welterweight division currently a jumbled mess with little clarity, the rising prospect isn't waiting around to see what might be next for him. Instead, when it comes to his next opponent, he has a request, and a very specific one.
"Right now I feel there’s a guy that I want to fight before he leaves the sport and that’s B.J. Penn," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "That’s a guy I really want to fight. I respect him a lot. He’s a legend and I think it’d be a really good matchup for me to have that fight in Toronto."
MacDonald made sure to note this was a respectful request and not a "call out" of a future Hall of Famer.
Penn has been on the shelf since losing to Nick Diaz last October at UFC 137. Afterward, he said he would retire rather than fight again, but in recent weeks, he's backtracked on that, most recently saying on a May 29 episode of UFC Tonight that he was "warming up to the idea" of a comeback.
The only caveat Penn gave was that a return wouldn't come in the "next couple of months."
The Toronto event is scheduled for September 22, so would offer him over three-and-a-half months to prepare. MacDonald said he had no idea about Penn's mind set about returning around that time, but that it's a fight he's wanted for a long time so decided to make his feelings known about it.
"I think it’d be a great opportunity," he said. "I’d love the opportunity to fight a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time and watched since I’ve been a young kid, so we’ll see if he accepts."
MacDonald said that he has already brought up the possibility to UFC brass, but only in passing.
"I’m throwing the idea out there," he said. "If he’d like to do it, I’m more than ready to accept."
MacDonald (13-1) said the other pairing on his must list is a rematch with current interim champion Carlos Condit. The two first faced off in June 2010, with Condit winning via a third-round comeback TKO after MacDonald had won the first two frames. But because he knows Condit is waiting for current champ Georges St-Pierre to return, he's aware that the rematch has no chance of happening right now.
So instead, he looked elsewhere around the division and settled on the one name that struck him the most: Penn.
"It's more of the idea that he may be retiring, so how many opportunities am l going to get to fight a guy like BJ after he’s gone?" he said. "I think it'd be a great fight. I know I’m going to fight all these guys in the top 10 eventually. I’m a young guy and these guys are going to be around for a long time and I know I’m going to get my shot against all these guys, and maybe I’ll be missing my opportunity if I wait too long with B.J."
MacDonald, who said he's currently walking around between 195 and 200 pounds in between fights, reiterated a belief that he'll eventually move up to middleweight somewhere down the line, but that's far off in the future. For now there are much more immediate concerns, and that's his next fight.
He's hopeful of fighting twice more in 2012, but more hopeful of fighting the legendary "Prodigy" before it's too late.
"It's definitely not an easy fight," he said. "I definitely think I’ll win. I’m very confident in myself, but B.J.'s a very dangerous fighter. If you take him lightly, you’re in for a very bad night. I’ll be at my very best if that fight happens."