Rory MacDonald is a believer in the talent of Bellator MMA’s welterweight division, but he still considers himself to be a level above everyone in his new home.
That includes reigning champion Douglas Lima, who he will face in the main event when Bellator travels to Los Angeles on Jan. 20. Lima is coming off a five-round verdict over Lorenz Larkin — another UFC signee — on June 24.
“It’s healthy that guys are crossing over from UFC. We’ve see Lorenz Larkin go 0-2. I think that validates the division and the talent in it. Especially because he was coming off a win streak and Top 10. All these things they open people’s eyes to the reality of the skill set over here in Bellator,” MacDonald said on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “Even that said, I don’t think these guys are gonna look all that great against me. I feel I’m on a whole other level at the moment and I’m going to go out there and show it.”
MacDonald, who came up short in a bid for UFC gold against Robbie Lawler in an unforgettable brawl in 2015, will have a chance to capture gold in a new promotion. While he admits it’s not quite the same as winning a UFC belt, it will still be a significant achievement in his career.
“Of course it’s different. Obviously, the UFC right now, that’s the Super Bowl,” MacDonald said. “Obviously it’s going to feel a little different. It doesn’t have that same thing going on. It is still one of my goals to accomplish. The way I see it is it’s the first goal on this new list, this new era that I’ve entered into as far as my own personal journey through mixed martial arts. That’s how I see it.”
MacDonald showcased plenty of heart in his classic bout with Lawler at UFC 189 but was ultimately denied when “Ruthless” shattered his nose one minute into the fifth stanza. MacDonald’s nose hadn’t fully healed when he returned to the Octagon against Stephen Thompson a little less than a year later, and he lost a unanimous decision to end his UFC tenure on a two-bout skid. MacDonald claims that he learned from both defeats.
“It definitely changed me, but it’s for the better. I had a terrible performance after that in my fight against Stephen Thompson. I really tried to change my style to compete with him in karate. Everybody knows I’m not a karate guy. The performance showed,” MacDonald said. “I had a terrible performance. I didn’t get hurt or beaten up or anything like that, but I got beat. Unfortunately I regret the way I trained for the fight and the way I performed. I wish I had fought to my strengths and my style.
“That performance along with the fight against Robbie, [I had] some time off that I had to digest it, learn from it and work on what I need to improve on, I’ve had that time. And I feel that I’ve found myself and who I need to be going forward. I’m really focused on just carrying that through to all my fights.”
MacDonald looked like his old self in his Bellator debut against Paul Daley, as he overwhelmed the British knockout artist en route to a second-round submission victory on May 19.
“I felt very comfortable. They gave me some good production, some good build on that fight,” MacDonald said. “I was really happy with way everything went. The setup they had given me for my warmup room to the venue, the entrance. I thought it was all really good.”
“The Red King” is not as satisfied, however, with the lengthy break in between his fight with Daley and Lima. After having fought just once per year for the past three years, MacDonald was hoping to stay a little more active following his debut victory.
“It’s been kind of annoying, to be honest. They knew I wanted to fight right after the June card. I was begging them to get on a card,” he said. “Even beforehand I told them…I want to stay busy, get me something in the summer, in the fall. I don’t care, it could be anybody. They booked me in January, unfortunately. So it’s been a bit of a disappointment. Going into 2018 I’ve been promised that I should be more busy. We’ll see what happens there.”