Rory MacDonald recently made the jump from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to its biggest rival, Bellator MMA, in one of the more significant free agent acquisitions for the Viacom-owned mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. During his introductory press conference, "Red King" had some not-so nice words for his former employer, saying that it was "boring" compared to his new digs and that all fighters on the roster looked like "robots" because they all had to wear the same Reebok-branded uniforms.
Fast forward a few days later and MacDonald is back-tracking a little bit, admitting that despite the break up, he will never "shit" on UFC because the company helped him become who he is today. In addition, without its platform and exposure, he would never have the bargaining chips when it came to talk turkey with Bellator.
"Red King" tried to clear things up during a recent appearance on "The MMA Hour:"
"You know what, UFC has done a lot for me and I’m not going to be one of those guys that shits all over them and that -- they are doing this and they are doing that. They have done a lot for my career. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am on the bargaining side of things, you know? They put me in the position to do this. They built my career and given me many opportunities. I would have been happy to go back with them, but at the same time, I also believe in the promoters and company at Bellator. I believe in what they are doing in building a strong roster and I have a lot of faith in them and the direction they are going in our sport."
One of the things MacDonald reveals he appreciates from Scott Coker and Co. is the fact that they listen to their fighters and are open to ideas and aren’t simply interested in pushing the promotion’s own agenda. In fact, "Red King" says in one day he talked to more of the higher-ups at Bellator MMA and Spike than he did with UFC’s big wigs in seven years.
That said, the Canadian wanted to clear up things regarding his criticism of Reebok’s deal with UFC, saying that he has never had a problem with Reebok — securing a solo deal with the company — but rather, took issue with the way UFC handled the partnership.
"I think I have to clarify something because a lot of people took it the wrong way. I’m sponsored by Reebok and I appreciate everything they have done for me. They do a lot for me on a daily basis and they have actually been great. They actually want to come into the sport and make a positive affect. They came in with not much time to work putting together the stuff they got going on. I think in the long run they have their mind in the right place. They want to do big things for the sport and be a part of it for a long time and I appreciate that. I just think UFC went about it in a wrong way. They didn’t really think of the fighters I don’t think. Even though they say they try to make it out like they are. There was no discussion. They just said, ‘okay, this is happening and deal with it.’ That kind of thing, you know. That’s not very respectful. I don’t think that was a very good move. I don’t appreciate that. But, at the end of the day it didn't play the biggest factor in my decision. It was more the numbers and the respect I get on a daily basis. The opportunities Bellator is giving me, working with me and giving my brand and making money and good fights and making a great promotion."
As far as his own sponsorship with Reebok, MacDonald is unsure if it will continue now that he’s jumped ship. But, at least his teammate still has his back. Regarding his debut with the promotion, MacDonald -- who confirmed his deal is for six fights -- didn’t divulge details, but expects to hit the cage with a force when the time comes. And if the stars align, his debut will be a title fight against Andrey Koreshkov, who has already spoiled the Bellator debut of another former high-profile UFC fighter.