Bellator 220: Rory MacDonald on why he regrets taking champion vs. champion fight with Gegard Mousasi
Last fall, everything appeared to be lining up perfectly for Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald.
In the middle of September, MacDonald was going to be getting married and then two weeks later, he would get a chance to become the first person in the promotion’s history to become the “champ-champ” when he took on middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi. Due to the significance of the bout being considered the biggest in company history, it would be the first MMA card to air on DAZN as part of the multi-year partnership between Bellator and the global streaming service.
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The nuptials went off perfectly, and the honeymoon would come after the fight with the hope of MacDonald having two championships around his waist. Unfortunately, the latter didn’t go as planned as MacDonald lost via second-round TKO. For MacDonald, who defends his 170-pound title in the main event against Jon Fitch at Bellator 220 in the opening round of the welterweight grand prix, going through two life-changing moments and trying to balance getting everything set for the biggest day of his life while preparing for the most important fight of his career proved to be too much for him. After looking back and assessing what happened, MacDonald wishes he would have taken a step back, get married, go on his honeymoon and take on Mousasi at a later date.
“I regretted taking the fight when I did,” MacDonald admits to Sporting News. “I wish I would have done it differently. I would have taken more time and not made an emotional decision like that. When I got the opportunity, of course, I wanted to take it. But I think it’s important to take time, pray and let God speak to you before you go off of emotion and see an opportunity and taking it without giving it any thought. Sometimes it’s better to sit back and give it a little bit of time.
“I was dealing with a lot of distractions. I had my wedding ceremony and reception with my wife and all of my family coming in which was two weeks before the fight. It was a big wedding, not a small one which took a lot of energy, time and focus away from what was important. We knew the wedding date way ahead of time, but that was the only time I could accept the fight. So instead of postponing the fight, I decided to do both. I think that was the biggest distraction.”
MacDonald’s wedding day went perfectly, but stepping inside the cage with the vicious Dutch striker didn’t follow the same script. Mousasi made sure that the dream fight ended in a nightmare for MacDonald, as “The Dreamcatcher” made it look easy, running through and thoroughly outclassing MacDonald.
Having to relive the fight was something MacDonald wasn’t particularly keen on doing. He thought about moving on and putting his focus on defending the welterweight title. Once the battle with Fitch became official, MacDonald went back and rewatched what happened with Mousasi. Right away, MacDonald knew what went wrong and took one key thing away that he brought into his camp for Fitch.
“I watched it once and felt like I didn’t fight like myself,” MacDonald said. “I didn’t fight with any heart, focus or determination. And it exactly looked like that. There’s really nothing else to take from it except make better choices in training.”
When Bellator announced they would be running the welterweight grand prix, people were shocked to see not only MacDonald in the eight-man field but also the fact the belt would be on the line for the entire tournament. To MacDonald, he would be making title defenses anyway, so why not the enter and compete against some of the best welterweights on the planet.
“I was fine with being in the grand prix and the belt being at stake,” MacDonald said. “It didn’t bother me at all. Every fight I have at welterweight would be for the championship anyway. It might as well be in a tournament. I’m just going to take it one fight at a time.”
MacDonald-Fitch is the final contest in the opening round of the grand prix with the winner moving on to face Neiman Gracie on June 14. The first round featured Gracie looking impressive against Ed Ruth, Douglas Lima dominating Andrey Koreshkov and Michael “Venom” Page barely escaping Paul Daley.
When asked what he made of the proceedings thus far, “The Red King” didn’t hold back and predicted how things are going to shake out ultimately.
“I think Douglas Lima’s looked the best so far against Koreshkov,” MacDonald stated. “I think he’s made a lot of improvements since our fight. I wasn’t impressed by MVP or Gracie. I feel very confident with where I stand in the tournament. I think with the way things are right now, it would be Lima and me in the finals.”