Move to Montreal paying dividends for MacDonald

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
8:16
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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If the opportunity for a rematch with Carlos Condit presents itself, fast-rising welterweight contender Rory MacDonald will leap at it.

MacDonald wants that rematch, and isn’t shy about expressing his sentiment: Condit is the only fighter to beat him inside the Octagon. But don’t take MacDonald’s openness about wanting a rematch with Condit as evidence that he’s failing to focus on matters at hand. He has a fight Saturday night in Seattle with BJ Penn. And MacDonald is 100 percent determined to walk away from the cage that evening victorious.

The only reason he has mentioned Condit’s name over the past several weeks is that people have regularly requested his thoughts on the former UFC 170-pound interim titleholder.

And it is not part of MacDonald’s makeup to avoid answering questions truthfully.

“I answered those questions honestly,” MacDonald told ESPN.com. “I would like to fight Carlos next; that’s my honest answer.

“I completely understand what’s in front of me Saturday night. That is 100 percent my focus: BJ Penn on Dec. 8. I’m just honest with myself and honest with everybody in the media asking me questions. I don’t want to give half-truths or beat around the bush when asked a question.”

Honestly, MacDonald (13-1) knows no other way to communicate. It’s an essential part of his character and has played a major part in his development as a mixed martial artist. MacDonald is just 23 years old, but his age should not be considered when measuring his maturity level. One month before his 21st birthday, MacDonald relocated from Kelowna, British Columbia, to Montreal in 2010.

He traveled across Canada to begin full-time training at TriStar gym. The decision to move was easy for MacDonald; it was made a few days after his first professional loss.

“If you watch that fight, you can see the intensity in my face,” MacDonald said of his first meeting with Condit, a third-round TKO on June 12, 2010, at UFC 112. “And I fought that way. It’s not my style and I paid for it that night. He beat the [crap] out of me.”

As a result of that loss, MacDonald -- being honest -- concluded he needed to make a major change in order to take his career to the next level.

“I’ve had a lot of experiences and I’ve learned from every one of them,” MacDonald said. “That’s made me the person I am today.

“Moving to Montreal was the biggest experience.”

While that decision was easy, MacDonald had been making tough decisions for several years. From the age of 16 he’d been living on his own. He’s an independent thinker, though wise enough to listen to and accept any point of view that might prove beneficial. This formula has served MacDonald well thus far as a professional fighter.

Having one of the best trainers in mixed martial arts, Firas Zahabi, in his corner, and several top fighters for sparring partners -- including UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre -- have helped MacDonald improve in all areas of fighting.

Being honest, an independent thinker, mature beyond his years, confident and physically talented has placed MacDonald on the cusp of MMA greatness. Defeating Condit in a rematch would go a long way toward achieving the high expectations many have for MacDonald, but first he must take care of business Saturday night.

Penn is the most determined he’s been in many years. The former UFC lightweight/welterweight champion is motivated to again have his name mentioned as an all-time MMA great.

And Penn isn’t just offering lip service to promote the bout. He’s in the best shape ever for a 170-pound fight.

“It’s good for him that he respected me enough that he actually worked a little bit and got himself in shape, because he’s going to need it,” MacDonald said.

“At the end of the day I can’t control what type of shape BJ is going to be in or what level of skill he possesses. I can only control myself. If I start worrying or stressing about things I can’t control that’s just going to be a damper or weight on my shoulders that I feel I don’t need.”

That’s just MacDonald being honest again. And it’s another reason why the odds favor him leaving the cage Saturday night with his hand raised.

Condit, who is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to St-Pierre at UFC 154 on Nov. 17, might want to pay close attention to MacDonald on Saturday. The two could be back in the cage for a rematch sometime in 2013.

And next time around, MacDonald won’t be overwhelmed by the moment or an inexperienced fighter inside the Octagon.

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