After a little bit of uncertainty over the weekend, Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie is official for the Bellator welterweight grand prix semifinals.
The California-based promotion confirmed on Tuesday that MacDonald and Gracie will square off in a five-round bout with the 170-pound belt on the line at Bellator 222 on June 14. The card takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York and is headlined by a light heavyweight tilt pitting Chael Sonnen against Lyoto Machida. In another featured bout, Darrion Caldwell will defend his bantamweight crown against Rizin champ Kyoji Horiguchi.
MacDonald advanced in the bracket by virtue of being the reigning champion following a majority draw with Jon Fitch at Bellator 220 this past Saturday. In his post-fight interview, the Tristar gym product questioned his desire to compete, leading to speculation that a retirement announcement could be forthcoming.
“I felt an internal struggle during the fight I never experienced before. I have always enjoyed my time in the cage by expressing my techniques in full out combat against another top-level fighter, but this time I wasn’t enjoying it. It felt more like a job than the satisfaction I am used to feeling by being dominant and applying what I have practiced to defeat someone,” MacDonald said.
“To be clear, I am not retiring from my professional MMA career, I’ve always been true and honest in the sport and I spoke from the heart,” he added. “As for my career at the moment. I am going to move forward in this tournament and compete boldly against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14. Thank you for your support and all the kind messages I’ve received after this sentimental moment I had for all to see after 14 years of being in this sport.”
MacDonald will make a six-week turnaround to face Gracie, who advanced in the grand prix thanks to a fourth-round submission of Ed Ruth at Bellator 213 on Dec. 15. The 30-year-old Gracie is 9-0 as a professional, with all but one of his victories coming by way of submission.
While MacDonald did receive a potential 180-day medical suspension after the bout, Sherdog.com confirmed with a promotion official that the “Red King” is expected to be cleared in time for Bellator 222.