Doubted because of his age, the youngest fighter on UFC roster is converting critics one fight at a time.
The California native is well rounded, possessing knockout power, submission skills and cage experience that goes beyond what his age dictates. Saturday night, McDonald will face Chris Cariaso at UFC 130.
“I do feel like my last fight made a statement, but at the same time, it wasn’t the exact statement I wanted to make. I like to finish fights quickly and I definitely think the last fight was a good thing, but at the same time, not what I expected.
“The end result was good; I came away with the win and a Fight of the Night bonus, and I’m not one to argue with the way God wants things to turn out, but it wasn’t the result I originally intended it to be.”
The upcoming matchup against Cariaso has the potential to be an exciting bout, as both fighters prefer to mix things up. While McDonald may have taken the fight on short notice, he’s had Cariaso on his radar for awhile.
“I’ve been looking at Chris for a very long time. It started a couple of years ago, back when he beat my teammate Rolando Velasco. Ever since then I’ve been watching him. During the fight with Rolando, it was very frustrating because I saw a lot of holes in Chris’s game, but I couldn’t take advantage of them because I wasn’t the one in there fighting him.
“I saw a lot of holes that could have been exploited then, but because Chris is so good with his style, maybe those holes aren’t there anymore. Maybe his flaws are minimal, but we are just going to have to see.
“Stylistically, I think it’s going to be interesting. The way he fights is exactly how I like people to fight me. I definitely think I should be able to pick him apart in the stand up, and I believe that my wrestling is better than his.”
While the UFC bantamweight division has a handful of stars, it has yet to establish depth in its ranks. When compared to some of the heavier weight classes, the bantamweight division looks to be the perfect place for a young superstar to take the fast lane to the top.
“I definitely think I can beat the other fighters in my division. Even when we were in the WEC, I looked around at the other fighters in my weight class and thought that I could not only compete with any of them, but beat them as well. I think that I am good enough to compete with them at this point in my career and I’m only 20 years old.
“I have a long ways to go before I’m the best that I can be. Right now, at the ripe old age of 20, I believe that I have the skills to compete with these guys and I really believe that I’m good enough right now to get in there with any of these guys.”
The bout against Cariaso will be McDonald’s 14th as a professional fighter. While all have come at 135 pounds, McDonald didn’t rule out a future in a heavier weight class.
“Right now, bantamweight is the right fit and the best place for me to be, but I think in time a move up to featherweight is something that would be possible. It’s kind of interesting because from the ages 14-19, I was stagnant at the exact same weight. Then within a period of three months I gained ten pounds of muscle and haven’t put on anything. I still have a lot of growing to do, but right now [the 135-pound division] is my home.”
At 20-years-old, McDonald is the youngest fighter on the Zuffa roster. Despite his accomplishments inside of the cage, opponents have overlooked him in the past. McDonald strongly urged future opponents to avoid traveling that path.
“If they overlook me because of my age they are pretty stupid. I’ve had people look past me because of my age my entire life. I grew up fast and it’s not about what age you are; it’s what maturity level you are at.
“It’s about your skill level, strength, endurance and how much you know about the sport. It’s about your wisdom and your ability to react to what happens in the cage. Age is irrelevant and I know a lot of people disregard me because of how old I am. It’s been that way for my entire life and I’m definitely no stranger to it.
“I’ve been competing against grown men since I was 14 and people have been counting me out the entire time. Even when I was at Gladiator Challenge, I was 16 and started fighting professionally. I’d see opponents thinking that they were going to `kill this little kid’ and get out of there quickly and I’d knock them out in the first round. I’ve been up against it my entire life, so I can say it’s a very unwise move if my opponents think my age matters.”
For a young fighter coming off an exciting Fight of the Night performance, expectations can be difficult to meet. While these issues may burden other fighters, McDonald is confident in his abilities and let fans know what to expect.
“I really pride myself on finishing fights and being able to do so wherever the fight goes. Whether it’s hands, kicks or submissions, I really take a lot of pride in being able to finish. I believe the biggest thing that sets me apart from other fighters is everything I throw hurts and is intended to put someone away.
“If fans can expect nothing else, they can expect to see exciting fights when I get in there. I haven’t been in a boring fight yet and I don’t expect to be in one anytime soon.”