Bellator 202: “Budd vs Nogueira” comes to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., this Friday night (July 13, 2018), featuring a main event between women’s Featherweight title Julia Budd (11-2) against Talita Nogueira (7-0) live on Paramount Network.
Earlier in the evening, fight fans can look forward to a bruising Bantamweight battle between former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) standout “Mayday” Michael McDonald (18-4) and former Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas (20-5) as the two vie for their place in line to fight reigning 145-pound kingpin, Darrion Caldwell.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with McDonald about the Dantas bout this weekend, suffering another in a long line of injuries in his Bellator debut against Peter Ligier, and how well recovered he is from that fight.
“Well, yeah the hand is very healthy. Praise God I have a really good surgeon. I never wanted to have ‘a surgeon’ like, ‘Oh this is my lawyer, this is my accountant, I’ve got a surgeon.’ You know I never wanted to have ‘a surgeon,’ but since I do, he’s amazing. He did a great job. I would love to never give him another job.”
Incidentally, the surgeon who repaired his hand is Dr. James Vahey. The photo linked here may seem gruesome, but that’s fresh off the operating table. Meanwhile, McDonald has a plan to stop injuring his hand.
“I better start punching lighter or something or just take it. But no, my coach he has been trying out a few different wraps. He’s already really, really good at wrapping hands. When I was working for UFC, the UFC wrapped my hands one time, and my hands got more hurt when UFC wrapped my hands than when my coach did. So I was like, ‘Obviously, my coach is better than the UFC at wrapping hands.’ He’s already really good at it, but he’s been experimenting with some other wraps that’ll protect my pointer finger, metacarpal muscles, a little bit better, and they’ve been feeling good, so that’s good.”
I asked McDonald if the trademark four-ounce gloves of mixed martial arts (MMA) could be blamed for the numerous injuries that he’s suffered.
“Yes, but, it’s worth it. You know when you get those huge gloves from boxing, those are made, those are designed to let you get punched in the face more and not get knocked out. The brain damage that you get is irreparable. Hand damage is reparable. Cosmetic damage is reparable. So I’d much prefer to get a hand broken or some more cosmetic damage you know with the small gloves than to get brain damage from something like football or boxing. You know those are much much harder on the brain.”
“Dudu” Dantas will put that theory to the test given he has left opponents black and blue without ever knocking them out, though he does hold four knockout victories. Surprisingly, McDonald doesn’t see the former champion as a path to a world title shot.
“That’s not the way I look at it. I just look at it as he’s a really good opponent, and whatever comes next is great. I’m honestly not like gunning for a title or something. I’m just trying to do the best I can and whatever comes, comes. I’m really not even thinking about it.”
Another thing that may surprise fight fans is that McDonald doesn’t go to any lengths to scout his opponents, Dantas included, and that he prefers to stay away from MMA unless he’s in a fight.
“I’m not much of a MMA fan anymore believe it or not. I don’t watch shows on the weekends, and when fight shows come out for the UFC, Bellator or whatever else, I don’t watch them. I’ve never watched one of his fights, but I know that he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, I know he’s a good striker. One time I had one of my teammates fighting (on) the same card that he did and I saw that he was good. So I’m expecting him to be good. I’m not expecting him to be a slouch at all. I’m expecting him to be a very very good competitor.”
With the news that current champion Darrion Caldwell will have a non-title fight up at Featherweight at Bellator 204, I asked McDonald if that sends a message to potential Bantamweight contenders.
“I just think it shows that he’s just looking to compete. I think that’s cool you know. Hey wherever the money’s at, wherever the competition’s at I guess. (If he thinks there’s no competition) that’d be a pretty naive way to think. I honestly wouldn’t assume that, but he’s the person to talk to and Bellator are the people to talk to about that.”
McDonald’s not worried about Caldwell, and he’s not worried about Dantas, so what does he focus on leading up to Bellator 202? Training. Training with the best to become the best.
“I have awesome, awesome teammates that if I’m not on my game, they beat me up pretty good. I don’t know how many black belts we’ve got at our school (Oakdale MMA), six, seven black belts, something like that. And even the people that aren’t black belts, some of ‘em are just fantastic grapplers, especially these super good wrestlers who jump into jiu-jitsu like a fish in water. They might be a blue or a purple belt, but they’re hanging with the black belts. We’ve got a lot of good teammates, a lot of good skill. We don’t recruit from other camps or try to steal fighters away from other schools. We raise our guys up from nothing. They’re just incredible man. My best training partners right now are probably Rolando Velasco and my older brother Justin Smitley, both of ‘em black belts in jiu-jitsu, both of ‘em been a pro fighter for over ten years. They’re both just very humble servant kind of teammates who are just always looking to help. Everyone there is just so good man.”
If great training partners and a humble attitude make for a winning formula, Michael McDonald is on his way to picking up a second big win in Bellator this Friday evening.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Budd vs. Nogueira” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.