It’s been almost a year since Rory MacDonald (18–4) fought in a professional MMA bout, and that was back in the UFC. In June 2016, he suffered a decision loss to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. It was the final fight on MacDonald’s UFC contract. He entered free agency, and signed with Bellator MMA later in the year.
Now, with Bellator 179 drawing near, “The Red King” is finally set to return. Opposite him will be the always dangerous Paul Daley (39–14–2). So what’s MacDonald’s take on his time away from the sport? On Tuesday’s Bellator 179 media call, the Canadian fighter addressed the topic.
“It feels like chapter three of my career at this point. A big organization move” he said. “Coming off the two losses that I’ve had, just changes I’ve made in my training, I’ve noticed a big difference in my mindset, my physical abilities, my martial arts abilities.”
What led to those differences? “I made a lot of changes from the way I was training for that fight” MacDonald explained. “I made the mistake of overthinking my opponent, and adapting my style every fight. Trying to learn new martial arts and new techniques, really getting away from my strengths. This past eleven months off has really been about getting back to my strengths, getting back to the basics.”
On the Thompson fight in particular, MacDonald was critical of his own approach. “I really screwed up and tried to be a Karate Kickboxer, tried to beat my opponent at his own game” he admitted. “I’ve made that mistake too many times, tried to change my style every single fight. I’ve made the necessary changes this year, and I don’t think we’re going to see that issue.”
One issue that has been ongoing for MacDonald is the broken nose he originally suffered in his title fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC 189. It was a Fight of the Year performance, but it left MacDonald’s nose badly broken. He admits he wasn’t professional taking care of it, getting back in the gym and sparring too soon, which led to it breaking again. This time around, he hasn’t made that mistake.
“I didn’t spar all the way after training camp [started]” MacDonald said of his approach to training. “A couple months away from the fight, I started my regular training. Yeah it’s been tested for the last two months, it hasn’t given me any problems, I haven’t been worrying about it. I’m very confident in it.”
He’ll need to be. Daley is coming off a flashy flying knee knockout of Brennan Ward, and is known as one of the most creative, devastating strikers in the business. Should he win, there’s a chance he could be fighting for gold on home soil.
Bellator 179 takes place May 19 in London, England at the SSE Arena.