Rory MacDonald made his professional mixed martial arts debut at the tender age of 16, on a card Extreme Challenge 4 in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.
MacDonald won that night, defeating Terry Thiara via rear-naked choke in the opening stanza. He kept on winning, notching 10 consecutive victories before succumbing to a last-minute firestorm from Carlos Condit in his second UFC appearance in June 2010. Even before he reached his 20s, MacDonald took on tough competition, as he earned triumphs over future UFC talents Jordan Mein and Kajan Johnson in his formative years.
MacDonald wouldn’t recommend such an early start in MMA for everyone, but for him, he says it was the right move.
“I think it’s case to case and person to person. I saw myself as a hardcore person at that age…But I guess I took myself very seriously, and I was mature in a different way,” MacDonald said on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “I was ready for combat. Mentally and physically I prepared for it. It’s just who I was inside. I need that outlet. So I think it was a healthy thing for me.
MacDonald hasn’t experienced much in the way of failure during his MMA career, though his losses – Condit, Robbie Lawler (twice) and Stephen Thompson – stand out because they occurred on a grand stage. “The Red King” also has plenty of memorable triumphs on his ledger, and he will have the chance to add one more to the list when he challenges Douglas Lima for welterweight gold when Bellator MMA travels to Los Angeles on Jan. 20.
MacDonald believes some of his success can be attributed to learning the ropes of MMA as a youngster.
“At that age you’re still developing. I believe when you’re learning all these things it stays in your mind a different way [than if you] were learning as an adult. It sinks in more. It’s permanent thing your body will learn,” MacDonald said. “That’s why I think fighting and martial arts and the way I approach it, it’s just everything I know. It’s everything for me. This is my life. I’m completely dedicated to it. I do believe it’s a positive thing for me, but I think it’s case to case.”
While MacDonald praises the virtues of getting an early start in combat sports, the potential downside is that taking punishment earlier could result in a premature retirement. The 28-year-old Tristar Gym product is currently 28 years old, and he claims that he has only taken serious damage in a few fights – most notably his classic brawl with Lawler at UFC 189. With that in mind, MacDonald believes he’s just getting started as he attempts to claim his first major promotional crown.
“As far as my long career, and continuing to have a long career, I don’t see it being a problem,” he said. “I really had two fights, one in particular, that I took a lot of damage in. And that was the Robbie Lawler fight, and I got beaten up by Carlos Condit early in my UFC career. Again, [the Condit fight] wasn’t a terrible beating. The Robbie Lawler fight, it was a car accident. Besides that, I pretty much dominated my fights, they weren’t really that competitive. I didn’t take any damage.
“My body’s been pretty healthy considering how long I’ve been doing this. I’m taking care of myself. I can see another good 10 years in this sport.”