Rory MacDonald has seen it all, and that includes competing at the highest levels of the sport for the biggest MMA promotions in the world. In his next fight, MacDonald, 32, from Canada, will continue that trek when he heads into the 2021 PFL Playoffs against last year’s welterweight champion Ray Cooper III.
MacDonald vs. Cooper headlines the PFL Playoff card featuring the welterweight and men’s lightweight divisions on August 13. The card will air live across ESPN2 and ESPN+.
Heavy chatted with MacDonald after one of his most recent training sessions at Sanford MMA in Deerfield, Florida.
MacDonald was asked to compare life in the PFL to the same in the UFC, and he obliged.
But his answer might surprise you.
MacDonald said the main difference between the two organizations was something fans don’t typically don’t see anyway.
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‘It’s All Pretty Much the Same’
MacDonald said most of his life that he’s spent as an elite MMA fighter has been the same in terms of what people see on TV.
But behind the scenes is a bit different.
“UFC…they’re a well-oiled machine. They are very organized, and they have a ton of employees for everything, so when you’re with them, it feels like you’re in the Major Leagues…everything is organized and taken care of,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald indicated that was the main difference he saw. It wasn’t the competition inside the cage or even the talent, skills, or experience of the fighters therein either. It was just some of the stuff around the fights, much of which fans and media watching at home via television never even notice.
“With the smaller shows, there’s a little bit more scrambling going on behind the scenes. But at the end of the day, it’s weigh-in, warm up in the backroom, show up, go into the cage, and fight,” MacDonald said.
So MacDonald stays focused on what matters most: preparing for his fights.
“So that stuff you see, it’s all pretty much the same. It’s just all the behind-the-scenes [stuff]. At the bigger show, you’ll see they have a lot more of a foundation with that stuff,” MacDonald said.
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Decorated MMA Star MacDonald Desires More Gold
MacDonald competed for the UFC between 2010 and 2016. He challenged Robbie Lawler for the UFC welterweight championship at UFC 189 in 2015, and he departed the UFC a year later for Bellator after losing to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
MacDonald became a two-time world champion for Bellator in the 170-pound division. Upon leaving that organization two years ago, MacDonald signed with the PFL in hopes of capturing gold again.
But with the global pandemic delaying the coronation of “The Red King” last year, he’s finally now getting to compete in his first season with the company.
MacDonald said the forced hiatus was an unwelcome one at first, but that it probably ended up being a really good thing for him in the end.
“At first, it was frustrating. In hindsight, I felt like it was what I needed,” MacDonald said.
PFL Gives MacDonald Another Chance to Prove Himself
Despite being in the prime of his career, MacDonald admitted he didn’t actually know how much he wanted to be a world-class MMA fighter anymore just about a year ago.
The break gave him time to reflect, and it appears that deep study of himself has helped him move forward.
“The prior year I was going through, you know, I was not sure I wanted to do this, or why I’m in this, and it gave me time to reflect and get by bearings to focus on going in 100% and not 50-50,” MacDonald said.
What MacDonald discovered during his lost year was that his passion for fighting was still there. Now, he’s on his way to competing for another world championship.
“I feel like I still have the ability to climb and show the world that I’m the best at my weight division…,” MacDonald said.
There again is that comparison, even if MacDonald didn’t explicitly state it.
MacDonald still wants to prove he’s at the top of his field, and he believes capturing PFL gold this year will do exactly that.
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