Bellator 191 “McDonald vs. Ligier” takes place at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England on Dec. 15, 2017. The main event will be the Bellator MMA debut of Bantamweight star “Mayday” Michael McDonald (17-4) as he takes on French phenom “BadAzz” Peter Ligier (8-1-1).
McDonald was formerly one of the top 10 fighters at 135 pounds as ranked by UFC, but his career hit a bit of a skid after he was unable to fight in 2014 or 2015 due to injuries, and a knockout loss to John Lineker in 2016 ended up being his promotional swan song.
That release was accelerated by the fact McDonald branded UFC as “dishonest” and clearly wanted to test the waters somewhere else, and Bellator was more than happy to oblige. With finishes in 15 of his 17 wins (nine knockouts, six submissions) he promises to bring some excitement to the 135 pound division in Bellator.
Today Michael McDonald talks to MMA Mania about his prospects in a new promotion and his thoughts on the “BadAzz” standing in the way of a Bellator debut he’s eager to make.
“Oh, I am VERY excited -- the most excited I’ve been in a very very long time. I feel fantastic. There’s been a few years where that urge to test myself hasn’t been the driving factor and it’s been ‘for business this is something we gotta do.’ Man for this one I am just so excited to test myself. As a martial artist I’ve been progressing so much in training, I feel like it’s just going to translate to an incredible performance and I want to see if that’s the case.”
What McDonald is hinting at in those opening remarks is that fighting nearly left him destitute. That’s partially bad luck with injuries, but McDonald also wasn’t feeling loved by the UFC brass.
“I had highs and lows working over there, and it’s not all them, it was me as well. I expected the sport to be something different. I imagine most people do. You imagine that if you’re good enough, and if you go and you have great performances, and you’re one of the highest bonused fighters in the company — you have incredible success and a great fan base you just kind of assume that the rest is gonna take care of itself. That’s not really the way it works.”
“Yeah I mean I had some expectations that I was wrong about, I was hurt about that, and it takes a little bit of the joy away when your whole life (you) thought it would turn out one way and it doesn’t and the sport you got into isn’t the way you thought it would be. Now I know what the sport is, I know how this whole business works, and I know what I have to do for it. Just being a fantastic fighter is not going to take care of all the rest of my problems. You still have to practice incredible financial wisdom, a lot of planning, just dealing in reality.”
McDonald gives credit to his teammates and his wife in particular for supporting him during all of the struggles for the fact he’s able to return now to face Peter Ligier.
“God has truly blessed me with an incredible network of people (and) an incredible wife. Dude I can not imagine how much that two year period (of injuries) would have sucked if I had a bad wife, and someone who I come home (to) who is always complaining about stuff. My wife is a champ man and we’ve been through hard times together. It’s not really fun watching your husband get tapped out or submitted or separate from the biggest company in the world and she’s never wavered. This whole time home and my time with her has been a good place.”
Now that he’s weathered the storm he’s ready to have Ligier yelling “Mayday” as he unleashes 16 months of pent up aggression since his last MMA fight. The victory won’t come easy though.
“You know there are some people that are mentally weak, and you can tell that they’ve struggled with it in the past, and I don’t think he’s one of those guys at all. I don’t think he’s a guy that crumbles at a scene like this and a stage like this. I think he’s a guy who rises to the occasion. If there’s one thing that I can say that I’ve seen from all of his tapes — he’s aggressive. He comes straight forward (and) he throws many punches.”
In studying those tapes McDonald has realized there’s something predictable about Ligier.
“Whether he’s looking to take you down or whether he’s looking to punch you he’s always moving forward. He sets a high pace and he’s very tough. You knock him down he’s gonna get back up and keep coming. I think he’s a very worthy opponent and I think it’s gonna be a great show. I know that I’ve got a bit of experience on him, so we’ll see.”
Without giving away too much of his strategy, McDonald expects to peak with unique technique.
“I’ve seen him be out techniqued before. He fought an opponent and lost where the guy really picked him apart on the feet, and I think I’m a better technician than that guy — no insult to him. He’s going to have a hard time with my wrestling and my Brazilian jiu-jitsu.”
That’s the confidence of a fighter who was already competing for a world title four years ago in UFC. Does McDonald expect the same opportunity to come to him in Bellator?
“You know I made some mistakes in UFC. I went too big too early, and I was fighting incredible competition on my very first contract, and very young. I was the youngest person in history to fight for a UFC title. I don’t know if I still am, but at the time I was. I went very big very fast, and that was actually a mistake business wise. It wasn’t a very good business decision for me and it led to me being a little upset. My management will deal with going about the business — I’ll leave it to them to figure out where I’m going next.”
It seems like McDonald is willing to exercise patience as he works his way up the Bellator ranks, but if he starches Ligier in his debut this Friday, it may not be a long wait after all.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “McDonald vs. Ligier” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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