Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald says he feels underestimated going into his rematch with Douglas Lima.
MacDonald, who meets Lima in the Bellator 232 main event Saturday in Uncasville, Connecticut, is currently a slight betting underdog to Lima. The last time the Canadian was an underdog in a 170-pound contest was in 2011 against Nate Diaz, a fight MacDonald won by unanimous decision. MacDonald isn’t used to the underdog role, but he’s happy to embrace it ahead of the Bellator welterweight grand prix final.
“To be honest, it’s all the better,” MacDonald told Bloody Elbow. “It’s going to make the victory all the more sweet, to go out there and show the world what I can do.
“Maybe they’re reading into the whole thing after my Jon Fitch fight, when I made that post-fight speech. They made a big deal out of it. I think they look at that, they’ve seen Lima looking good and powerful and motivated in his fights. It is what it is. I enjoy the position of being the underdog.”
MacDonald took away the Bellator belt from Lima in their January 2018 fight in a narrow decision victory. It was a hard-fought win for MacDonald and a grueling battle for both.
Now, in the rematch, the stakes are even higher. Like the first time, the winner will walk away Bellator welterweight champ, but this time also the tournament winner and $1 million richer.
To get to the final, MacDonald fought to a draw with Jon Fitch, advancing because he was the champion, then earned a clear decision win over the previously undefeated Neiman Gracie. Lima, meanwhile, submitted Andrey Koreshkov and scored a highlight-reel knockout of Michael Page.
MacDonald, a former UFC title challenger who signed with Bellator in 2016, has been a fan of the tournament format throughout it. He said the possibility of competing in a tournament was a factor he considered back when he made the jump to Bellator a few years ago.
“I’ve really liked the tournament format,” MacDonald said. “It’s been different, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. To be honest, I’ve been really happy with it. It’s been a great experience. I’m excited to go out there and win it now.”
MacDonald expected to meet Lima in the final, and he was right. MacDonald said he is hoping to dominate the fight, and not let it be as close as it was the first go around.
“Rematches are always a bit different,” MacDonald said. “You have some history, you know the guy a little better. We have an understanding of each other. And obviously, it formed a rivalry. The main thing is that the fight was close, and we both want to go out there and put our names down on this rivalry. I want to show that I am the best fighter. I’m happy that it turned out to be Douglas in the finals with me.”
When asked how many times he has watched the first Lima fight in preparation for the rematch, MacDonald said he actually hasn’t seen it since closer to when it happened nearly two years ago.
“I don’t even remember the last time I watched it,” MacDonald. “Probably sometime after we actually fought. But recently, probably not much. I think I haven’t watched it in a year or two.”
One may think watching the first fight would be good starting place while getting ready for the rematch, but MacDonald said watching it in its entirety wasn’t necessary.
“I have a good memory of what happened, and my coaches have looked at it,” MacDonald said. “We’ve looked at some clips and stuff, but to sit down and watch the whole fight, no I haven’t. I have a different approach, and I feel like I’m going to do a lot better. I’m not a really big footage guy.”
After MacDonald’s draw versus Fitch, he sounded uncertain in his post-fight interview that he wanted to keep going in MMA, despite the fact that he was expected to move to the second round of the welterweight grand prix. He said he no longer had “that killer inside.” Later on, MacDonald said that during the Fitch fight it felt like he was doing a job, rather than having fun.
After some thinking, MacDonald shut down any talk of retirement and chose to continue on in the tournament, where he beat Gracie in the semifinals. MacDonald said he felt a lot better in the win against Gracie than he did one month earlier against Fitch.
“I have a lot of clarity on that situation,” MacDonald said.
“In the Jon Fitch fight, I felt like I was in my head a lot. I would kind of like let him just ride on top of me rather than fight out of positions to kind of consider, ‘Am I still supposed to be doing this?’
“I didn’t feel like I carried that load going into the Gracie fight. I was able to be free and just go in there and perform.”
When asked if he is still passionate about the sport, MacDonald took it a step further.
“Absolutely,” MacDonald said. “Probably more than ever.”