UFC bantamweight Michael McDonald is only 20 years old, but he's been through a lot already in terms of being a fighter. He turned pro at 16, and already has 14 fights under his belt (with just one loss). He's also had to deal with the pressure of being the best fighter from his small gym in Modesto, which has led to a lot more people relying on him. Jeremy Botter of Heavy wrote a very good profile on him that offered a glimpse into how difficult it can be for the prodigies of the sport. McDonald left the pressures of his home gym and moved away with his girlfriend, but ended up having to come back. And it was then that he had to lay down the law:
"I had to put it in perspective with my team and say that I’m doing this because I want to do it. If I can help you guys in the process along the way, great, but never doing it for anyone else again," McDonald recalls. "I can’t fight for other people."
While that might sound a bit selfish to some, I think it's just a reality of the sport. And McDonald has struggled with the idea of being a competitor in MMA for a long time already:
"I have questioned many times if I want to be a fighter for the rest of my life. I’ve never once questioned if I wanted to be a martial artist. I knew that I would be a martial artist until the day that I die. But being a professional fighter? That’s a whole different story.
"For me, it’s not so much the love of fighting. For me, the love that keeps me going is being a martial artist. The whole fighter deal, that’s my job. Doing interviews when I had a horrible day. Having to be the center of attention when I want to relax. Fighting on TV. That’s a lot of pressure and it’s a hard thing to do. I try to enjoy that part when I can, but it’s my job."
Yet, he comes right back and almost contradicts himself when he tries to explain what his goals are:
"I don’t need to accomplish something to define my worth. I’m going to do this sport because I love it. I don’t need to get something so that I can be personally satisfied with myself. I just want to love the sport. I have no goals that are works-based. I want a clean living. I want to be able to create a steady income for me and my future family. I want to help my current family. I want to be happy."
I think it's the interchangeable words that are confusing me a bit. He doesn't love fighting. But he loves martial arts. He loves the sport. But he doesn't love the job. I've been a fan of Mayday for a long time, and I was 20 once too. I know it's a confusing time, and I can't even imagine what it would be like to try and figure everything out with all that pressure on me. I find his goals and attitude admirable, and he's certainly more mature than your average 20 year old.
But he still seems to lack some drive, and I'll be honest, you could see it in the cage when he fought Chris Cariaso at UFC 130. He lacked that killer instinct, and it was definitely noticeable. Is it because he's not married to fighting like some guys? I don't know. This is one of those occasions where a fighter's mind and a fighter's motivations are just as interesting as what he does in the cage, at least to me. Because one has a huge influence on the other.