Rory MacDonald knows beating Ray Cooper III in his next fight will be a tough task. MacDonald, 32, faces Cooper, 28, in the welterweight semi-finals of the 2021 PFL playoffs. MacDonald vs. Cooper headlines the main card on August 13 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The action will be streamed live via ESPN2 and ESPN+.
“I’ve got to be at my best for him,” MacDonald told Heavy.
“The Red King” is a former UFC title challenger and former Bellator MMA champion. He briefly considered stepping away from the sport after leaving Bellator back in 2019, but MacDonald eventually learned that fighting was still the blood that kept his heart beating.
Now, MacDonald hopes to take his next step toward capturing another MMA world championship, and he’ll need to beat “Bradda Boy” on Friday night to get there.
MacDonald vs. Cooper features two decorated 170-pound stalwarts that should combine inside the PFL’s SmartCage for one heck of a fight.
MacDonald Envisions PFL Championship as Important Achievement
MacDonald wants to claim gold again at 170. In order to do that, he’ll have to get through the 2019 PFL welterweight champion Cooper, and then the winner of the battle on the same card between 2018 champ Magomed Magomedkerimov and Sy Sadibou.
The winners of MacDonald vs. Cooper and Magomedkerimov vs. Sadibou will lock horns at the 2021 PFL championships later this year.
MacDonald believes becoming the 2021 PFL welterweight champion would be one of the biggest achievements of his career.
“It would be right up there with all the accomplishments in my career. It would be one of the bigger ones,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald believes the PFL’s unique format is what sets it apart.
“The PFL season and playoffs, the whole structure of it, it’s two months between each fight. It’s a hard thing to get through,” MacDonald said.
The fighter said the successive training camps, weight cuts, and fights against top-notch competition were grueling experiences, but that they would also be part of what makes becoming the PFL champ so special.
“It’s a hard thing to get through, so it will mean a lot to be able to go through it and be a champion,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald No Longer Confused About Fighting
MacDonald enjoyed a resurgent year in MMA. While he had previously started to question his life as a fighter during his final contests under Bellator’s banner, MacDonald said there was no longer any conflict.
“Yeah, it was a very confusing point. My life changed drastically very suddenly,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald went from being single to having a wife and family.
He even had a personal experience that led him to a new kind of spiritual life, and he couldn’t quite make sense of all that.
“Everything kind of changed, and I didn’t really know how to deal with my past life, being a fighter, and everything I identified with. It was just a lot of change going on in my life, and, you know, being a father, too, kind of softens you… So I allowed myself maybe to get a little too soft,” MacDonald said.
But MacDonald has now reconciled his family life and faith with his life as a professional prizefighter.
“I just was a little confused…so a year off really gave me some time to reflect and to understand that God gave me this ability and this skill and a passion to do mixed martial arts. I feel like it’s a God-given gift, and he put it in my heart to achieve something in it…to glorify him through it,” MacDonald said.
The realization changed his life, and now he feels he’s on his way to winning another world championship because of it.
“Now I can go forward 100%. I don’t have to think about it anymore,” MacDonald said.
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