Shark attack: UFC 129 interview exclusive with Rory MacDonald

Photo courtesy of Sherdog.com

Get used to hearing the name Rory MacDonald.

At just 21 and one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster, the up-and-coming Canadian has stacked together an impressive record (10-1) and has never gone the distance, posting a strong mix of six submissions and four (technical) knockouts.

And by looking at his most recent opponents -- Greg Jackson-trained Carlos Condit and now Stockton's own Nate Diaz -- MacDonald's clearly not afraid to dive into the deep end to prove he's one of the toughest sharks in the UFC's stacked welterweight division.

MacDonald started his career going undefeated (7-0) as a lightweight and was the King of the Cage (KOTC) Canada lightweight titleholder before moving up to welterweight and being quickly snatched up by the UFC. After winning his UFC debut against fellow KOTC champion Mike Guymon, MacDonald was pitted against former WEC welterweight kingpin Carlos Condit and featured on the main card of UFC 115: "Liddell vs. Franklin."

"The Waterboy" took Condit to task for the first two rounds with multiple takedowns and effective striking, before Condit was able to turn the tables and earn a buzzer-beating stoppage via technical knockout. Their effort was enough for both fighters to be rewarded the $85,000 "Fight of the Night" bonus -- not an insignificant return for a young fighter making $8,000 "to show."

MacDonald now looks to bounce back from his first loss. He's switched his camp, leaving Toshido MMA in Kelowna, British Columbia -- where he had trained since he was 14 years old under the tutelage of David Lea -- in favor of the big city.

He now calls Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, home, alongside UFC welterweight deity Georges St. Pierre.

He'll get his first opportunity to test out his new skills at UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields," the UFC mega-event hosting 55,000 screaming Canadians at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The April 30th event is already promised to shatter both MMA attendance and gate records ($11 million) for North America.

MacDonald's opponent will be The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 5 winner, Nate Diaz (13-6), who is now 2-1 in his latest run at welterweight, himself coming off a loss to Dong Hyun "Stun Gun" Kim at UFC 125 last January. MacDonald vs. Diaz airs as part of the SpikeTV UFC 129 "Prelims" broadcast.

We recently caught up with MacDonald to discuss his recent transition as a fighter and upcoming fight with Diaz. Let's get to it.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You're now fighting out of TriStar Gym in Montreal. Can you talk about the transition between camps and how that came about? Did you want to seek out new coaching or just broaden your game?

Rory MacDonald: The biggest thing was needing sparring partners at my level. Get a few more ... sparring partners available. I just didn't have that. It was a small town, and not everyone had the same focus as I did. It was hard to have guys in the gym everyday helping me.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You're known as being very well rounded. Can you talk about your progression as a fighter? Did you go about just training everything (all disciplines) early on?

Rory MacDonald: Yeah, with my coach from Toshido, David Lea. He's a very good coach, and he's always trained me to be very well rounded on the ground and on the feet. That's just been how I developed as a young guy. I took a liking to both, and I trained it equally. I watched a lot of footage and learned how to put it all together.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Did you wrestle also? Do you have a wrestling background?

Rory MacDonald: No, no wrestling background.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Now that you're at TriStar, can you talk about your relationship with GSP?

Rory MacDonald: Yeah, we're sparring partners and we're good friends. He helped me a lot when I first moved down here. He drove me to the gym everyday, took me home, took me for dinner. I have a lot of thanks for Georges and how he helped me get started out here in Montreal, in a new city for me.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I saw your UFC debut against Mike Guymon in Fairfax, Va., at the Patriot Center for Fight Night 20. It was good fight. Given that Mike was the King of the Cage welterweight title holder, and you were the King of the Cage Canada lightweight title holder, were you familiar with Mike going into that fight, through your affiliation with KOTC?

Rory MacDonald: Somewhat, yeah. They were going to set up the fight, I think, between him and someone else -- I think Anthony something, I can't remember who it was. They were going to set up some fight in King of the Cage, but it didn't end up working out. Then we both made it to the UFC at the exact same time, so it worked out there somehow. I don't know, but it worked out for the better. To answer your question, yes, I had heard of him before.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): That of course ended in a first round armbar. You then went and fought Carlos Condit at UFC 115 in June. That was in Vancouver, right, in British Columbia and close to home for you?

Rory MacDonald: Yes it was.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How was that fighting in front of the hometown crowd? Did you feel any pressure, or was it just exciting?

Rory MacDonald: Yeah, it was very exciting. It was so exciting it got me very hyped up and emotional to put on a good show and fight hard, and I lost my head and I didn't stick with my game. I went a little bit too aggressive.

I still performed well and put on a good show, but I didn't have to do everything I did in the last round and that's what ended up getting me caught. So you know, that's what happens.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I read, and I'm not sure if it's true, but I read that you seemed to have been winning a split decision by the time of the stoppage, while at the same time, you got the Fight of the Night bonus. Does that lessen the sting a little bit?

Rory MacDonald: No. It helps with my personal life, as far as my bills and stuff go. (But) as far as the sting, no, it doesn't lessen that at all. It sucks. It sucks a lot. It was hard for me to get through that. But I dealt with it how I did, and that was that.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Can you talk about how you dealt with it? Did you get assistance from your coaches and training partners and people who have been in the same spot?

Rory MacDonald: I just had to get away from it a little bit and clear my head, I guess. Just be alone for a bit. That's how I usually deal with things.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): For your next fight, you were first supposed to fight Matt Brown in November, but you had to pull out with an injury. What exactly happened there? Can you talk about that?

Rory MacDonald: Yeah, I had to have knee surgery because my bursa in my left knee was very majorly enflamed, and it wouldn't be repaired on its own. So I got surgery, and I had to drop out of the fight, because I wouldn't have been ready. It took me months to heal from it.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You were then slated to face the TUF winner, James Wilks, but he had to pull out. Now you have Nate Diaz. Is that problematic in any way, to have a change of opponents. Does that affect your preparation, or does that not affect you?

Rory MacDonald: It was so far away. It was before training camp. So I entered training camp knowing that I was fighting Nate Diaz, so it didn't affect me. If it changed now, maybe it's a different story; but, no it didn't.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): With Carlos Condit and now Nate Diaz, the UFC has you swimming with sharks here. How do you feel about being thrown in the deep end this early?

Rory MacDonald: I feel that I'm a bit of a shark myself. I don't feel that I was doing too bad in the Carlos fight, and I'm definitely not shy to fight Nate by any means. I feel that I'm at that level, and the UFC notices that.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You'll be fighting in Toronto at UFC 129 on April 30, a home in Canada in front of 55,000 ticket holders. This shatters both MMA attendance and gate records for North America. Can you talk about that experience for you?

Rory MacDonald: I don't care how many people are there, I just want to win this fight and do it impressively. That's it.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Both you and Diaz will be coming off a loss -- Diaz last lost to "Stun Gun" Kim. How does that affect your preparation for the fight, knowing that he's going to be looking for the win that much more?

Rory MacDonald: I just came off a loss too, so no matter how hungry he is, I'm sure that it's not going to put a dent in how hungry I am to smash his face in. So I'm not worried about that.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How do you see the fight going down?

Rory MacDonald: I see me winning. (Laughs.)

Adam Wagner ( MMAmania.com): The headliner for UFC 129 features a guy you train with, GSP taking on Jake Shields. How do you see that fight going?

Rory MacDonald: I think Georges is too well rounded for almost everybody. He's ahead of the game. He's very talented, and I don't think Jake is going to be able to put his game on Georges. I think Georges is just too well rounded everywhere and too skilled.

Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Do you think GSP will hesitate at all about going to the ground with Shields?

Rory MacDonald: I don't think so. I don't really know, but I think Georges can win the fight anywhere. He's at that level where he can dominate anyone everywhere in the world of MMA. It's not a jiu-jitsu match, it's MMA. And Georges knows how to fight MMA everywhere, almost better than ... He could be the best -- he's pound for pound one of the best in the world. So, he could fight anyone anywhere.

Adam Wagner ( MMAmania.com): Do you see it ending by stoppage, and if so, what round?

Rory MacDonald: I don't really know, I don't like to make predictions anymore.

Adam Wagner ( MMAmania.com): All right, Rory, thanks again for the time. And good luck at UFC 129.

Rory MacDonald: All right, sounds good, man.

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