When Rory MacDonald fought Jon Fitch to a draw at Bellator 220, then followed that up with a post-fight interview in which he questioned his own desire to “hurt people,” there were questions raised about his fighting future.
Bellator’s reigning welterweight king has decided that not only is he going to keep on fighting, but he’s going to remain on the promotion’s big June 14th card as originally planned.
It was announced on Tuesday that MacDonald’s welterweight tournament semifinal bout/title defense vs. Neiman Gracie is official for Bellator 222 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. MacDonald released a lengthy statement both on his social media account and through Bellator’s official press release.
He first went into more detail about his revealing interview with Bellator analyst John McCarthy.
“I want to take the time to thank everybody who had the chance to see my fight last weekend and share that candid moment I had in the Bellator cage with John McCarthy,” MacDonald wrote.
“I felt an internal struggle during the fight I never experienced before. I have always enjoyed my time in the cage by expressing my techniques in full out combat against another top-level fighter, but this time I wasn’t enjoying it. It felt more like a job than the satisfaction I am used to feeling by being dominant and applying what I have practiced to defeat someone.”
“Even during my dominant moments, I felt I was completing a task and these feelings were a bit confusing to me because it’s new. I used to fight with anger I held within myself from pain I had experienced in my past. To be honest, I believe this comes from my heart changing as I’m walking a new life as a Christian. The Lord has given me peace and freedom from the pain that haunted me in my heart from my younger years. I would only satisfy myself for a short period of time from winning fights until the feeling would resonate in me again. So, now I don’t feel the same emotions I have in the past while competing.
“I still and will always have a passion for martial arts and do not believe, as a Christian, that it’s wrong for myself to compete in a professional sport that is violent. In fact, I’m happy to testify about being a Christian on this platform I’ve been given.”
MacDonald has been open about his Christian faith in the lead-up to last week’s matchup with Fitch, although the combination of his religious beliefs and recent less-than-stellar performances led to speculation he might forgo the tournament and hang up his gloves for good. However, at least through June 14th, that won’t be the case.
“To be clear, I am not retiring from my professional MMA career, I’ve always been true and honest in the sport and I spoke from the heart.
“As for my career at the moment. I am going to move forward in this tournament and compete boldly against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14.
“Thank you for your support and all the kind messages I’ve received after this sentimental moment I had for all to see after 14 years of being in this sport.”
MacDonald (20-5-1) advanced to the semifinals of Bellator’s $1 million Grand Prix because a draw still counts a successful title defense, per tournament rules. Interestingly enough, he was issued a minimum 60 day suspension by the California State Athletic Commission, and that’s not even including the potential for a six-month suspension should he not be cleared by a physician for a “a right lateral epicondyle injury.” June 14th is within that 60-day window, but as we’ve seen with Derrick Lewis at UFC 230, obviously these “mandatory suspensions” aren’t that mandatory.
Bellator 222 is headlined by a light heavyweight fight between Chael Sonnen and Lyoto Machida. They also confirmed that Bellator bantamweight champ Darrion Caldwell will rematch RIZIN champion Kyoji Horiguchi, with Horiguchi now presented his opportunity to become a two-promotion titleholder. The entire card will stream live exclusively on DAZN.