By Hal Estep
Last Saturday, Rory MacDonald failed to defend his Bellator welterweight championship against Douglas Lima. Now, he says that his contract has expired.
MacDonald lost his title via unanimous decision. Douglas Lima showcased his takedown defense, stifling the majority of MacDonald’s takedown attempts. The mostly uneventful fight showcased a troubling pattern with “The Red King:” MacDonald’s killer instinct has disappeared.
Rory MacDonald gained the nicknames “The Red King” and “The Canadian Psycho” after enduring wars in the UFC. His ability to take punishment and dish it right back at his opponent was second to none. The turning point in his career came when he fought Robbie Lawler for the UFC welterweight championship at UFC 189. This was the second time they had fought, and they made it memorable. Both fighters took each other to their limits and Rory MacDonald met his in the fifth round.
Ever since that fight, Rory MacDonald hasn’t been the same. MacDonald’s previously ferocious striking is gone. Now, he seems timid during striking exchanges. MacDonald has looked more vulnerable in every fight since his first meeting with Douglas Lima.
MacDonald struggled against Lima in their first fight, but still came out with the victory. Then he was dominated by the then-middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi. Then, MacDonald fought to a draw against Jon Fitch in a fight that many believed Fitch won, marking another turning point. In the post-fight interview, MacDonald said “It’s hard to pull the trigger now. I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore.”
There was hope after MacDonald defeated Neiman Gracie at Bellator 222, but this latest defeat has proven what every Rory MacDonald fan feared: his prime is over. He’s only 30 years old and it’s apparent to anyone paying attention that the days of “The Red King” are finished. According to MacDonald, his Bellator contract is up. This leaves many questions about his future.
Bellator President Scott Coker hopes to re-sign MacDonald, as there is the potential for a trilogy fight against Douglas Lima. Lima and MacDonald hold victories over one another. It’s the logical fight to make, but their last fight was lackluster.
If MacDonald decided not to re-sign with Bellator, there are a few interesting possibilities. MacDonald could follow fellow UFC alums Demetrius Johnson and Eddie Alvarez to ONE FC. This possibility is unlikely, due to ONE FC’s rehydration policy, which would force MacDonald to fight at 185 pounds. MacDonald fought Gegard Mousasi at 185 pounds and did not fare well in the slightest.
MacDonald could also explore a return to UFC. There could be a trilogy fight against Robbie Lawler, but Lawler has no reason to take the fight. He’s already proven he can beat Rory MacDonald twice. MacDonald could fight a fellow struggling welterweight in Ben Askren, although Askren is considering retirement after his loss to Demian Maia.
Of course, there is also the possibility of retirement. MacDonald is young, but he has fought in 28 professional MMA bouts. There really isn’t much left for MacDonald in the sport. He’s past his prime, he has already won the Bellator welterweight championship, and the only huge accolade missing from his resume is a UFC welterweight championship. The ship has sailed on MacDonald fighting for that title.
The most likely scenario is that MacDonald will re-sign with Bellator and have his rubber match against Douglas Lima. With the direction their careers are going in, it’s likely that Lima will defeat MacDonald again. Then MacDonald will once again be asking himself what’s next.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org