Things have happened quickly for Michael McDonald over the past year.
Fighting in the WEC was always his goal, but fighting in the UFC just never seemed realistic for the Oakdale MMA fighter. He admittedly had a case of nerves heading into his UFC Fight Night 24 match up with Edwin Figueroa.
“I think I’ve always had a conscious head on my shoulders when it comes to handling nerves, but I think subconsciously I had some nerves for this one, which was probably the first fight since about my second pro fight that I’ve really had any nerves. I can say this one was a little bit more stressful,” McDonald recently told HeavyMMA.com.
The whole experience was surreal for the up and coming bantamweight.
“It was just a little hard to believe. Even with the weigh-ins, it was like, wow, is this really happening? I just felt like a kid in a candy store,” he said.
“For the WEC I felt at home already because mentally I just felt like for years I was thinking about it saying I’m going to be there. I finally was and it was nothing new, but the UFC I was like, wow, this is insane.”
The fight week ended with a Fight of the Night bonus check for his unanimous decision victory, but there were hiccups along the way.
Cutting a little more weight than usual, McDonald had issues re-hydrating after weigh-ins.
“This is actually the first time I had problems re-hydrating. It was just basically a stupid mistake honestly on our part. For this fight it was actually the most (weight) I’ve had to cut,” revealed McDonald.
At the conclusion of the first round, McDonald clipped Figueroa with a right hand. As Figueroa staggered on his feet, McDonald raised his hands in success, but he thought he broke his hand with the punch.
“I did think I broke it. The very last punch of the first round when I wobbled him a little bit, as soon as I hit him I felt a sting in my hand and thought that I broke it right there,” said McDonald.
Having already overcome a case of UFC jitters and thinking he broke his hand, McDonald had another obstacle to overcome. During the second round McDonald placed Figueroa in several submission holds and tired out his legs. He mentioned it to his corner between rounds.
“When I first noticed it was when he got out of the second triangle, when I had the triangle and the inverted armbar. He got out of it and I put him back into guard and that’s when I realized, wow, my legs are tired,” said McDonald. “I was actually thinking I might need to conserve my leg strength because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get up.”
“I don’t know what goes through other people’s minds, but I can honestly say with mine, I got up and started praying. That’s what I started doing because I didn’t know how I was even going to walk back to my corner nevertheless fight five more minutes,” he added.
He and Figueroa were awarded Fight of the Night honors, but at the time, McDonald didn’t realize how good of a performance it was.
“I didn’t realize how good of a fight it was,” he said. “The only thing I knew is there were a couple of times, there were three times in that fight where I’ve never in my life heard a crowd yell so loud.”
McDonald was suspended indefinitely by the state of Washington due to the hand injury suffered at the end of the first round. He has since had his hand evaluated by a physician and cleared.
“I got my hand checked out and everything came back clean. No problems with that,” he said.
McDonald has received a lot of attention since the UFC Fight Night 24 performance, but the 20-year old remains grounded.
“I try not to focus too much on it. I don’t want to get a big head on my shoulders. I just want to be me.”