Reigning Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald remains one of the best 170-pound fighters in the world, but is the 29-year-old as good as he used to be?
That’s still up for debate.
MacDonald, who is coming off a unanimous decision win over Neiman Gracie last weekend at Bellator 222 to retain his welterweight title and move on to the Welterweight Grand Prix Tournament finale, has seen a drop off in production over his past couple of fights. “Red King” has still managed to come out on top and hold onto his shiny Bellator belt, but his in-cage performances have seemed to lack a certain amount of pizzazz.
Following his TKO loss to Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi back in 2018, MacDonald fought veteran fighter Jon Fitch to a draw this past April. The outcome wasn’t ideal, but it was MacDonald’s post-fight comments about not having the drive to hurt people that had fans worried about his fighting future.
Given MacDonald’s recent decline in overall production and hint at retirement, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White seems like the smartest promoter in the world for letting “Red King” go back in 2016. Many believed UFC was making a mistake for not retaining the services of MacDonald and giving him up to a direct competitor like Bellator, but it now looks like MacDonald is a different fighter just three years later.
“Yea, I think that umm.. It is a different situation in that because guys say they want to retire or do whatever and then just walk away,” White told MMA on SiriusXM. “And then there’s guys that I let go of, or girls that I let go of, because I think that it is time. You know, but there are other places they can go and make money. But yea I think that Rory (MacDonald) is not the same guy he was going into the Robbie Lawler fight (at UFC 189).”
Remember, MacDonald was one of the most entertaining welterweights in the world while competing under the UFC banner from 2010-2016. He fought for the UFC welterweight championship back in 2015 against then champion Robbie Lawler and ended up losing via fourth-round TKO, but that epic war proved to be the Fight of the Year and one of the very best 170-pound title fights in UFC history.
Luckily, MacDonald is still young enough to turn things around and recapture the fire to compete at the highest level. He’s still winning fights against some of the best names in the Bellator welterweight division and doesn’t even seem to be operating at 100 percent, whether mentally or physically. Just think about what the 2015 version of Rory MacDonald would do to Neiman Gracie and Jon Fitch here in 2019.