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Rory MacDonald: Retirement has ‘been on my mind’ for the last four years

“Unfortunately, there’s a difference between what you can do in the practice room and under those lights.”

Rory MacDonald during his PFL 8 fight against Dilano Taylor.
Rory MacDonald during his PFL 8 fight against Dilano Taylor.
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After his loss to Dilano Taylor at PFL 8 last weekend, former Bellator champion and UFC title contender Rory MacDonald announced his retirement from competition. The 33-year-old decided to call it quits after 17 years as a professional fighter.

In his recent appearance on The MMA Hour, MacDonald spoke about the factors that led to his life-changing decision.

“It’s been on my mind for a while. I feel like it’s been quite a few fights, actually, where I’ve questioned it but just wasn’t ready,” he said. “I felt like I could still have that resurgence in my career.

“I had a goal that I was driven toward, and I know in the practice room I could do certain things, but I just wasn’t able to do it in the cage when rubber meets the road, so to speak.

“Unfortunately, there’s a difference between what you can do in the practice room and under those lights. I just don’t have that certain thing, that spirit, that heart to go out there and get it done anymore.”

But when did he begin to think about the idea of retirement? Apparently, after his Bellator title fight with fellow UFC alum Gegard Mousasi in 2018, where he lost via second-round TKO. The thoughts then intensified after his Bellator 232 loss to Douglas Lima a year later.

“That fight I didn’t prepare like I should have prepared,” MacDonald explained. “That was the beginning, I think. After the injury I had in the Lima fight and the injuries I had from the second Lawler fight, it really started to play with my head.

“Being on my couch for three months, not being able to walk after the Lima fight, it just started — I tried to ignore those voices but your body and your flesh kind of cries out to you.

“I tried to ignore it for as long as I can but subconsciously it’s there. You can only take so much punishment over the years. You have to be willing to go through that and I think I just sort of came to my wit’s end.”

MacDonald lost to Taylor via first-round TKO and was subsequently eliminated from the welterweight playoffs. And getting to assess this most recent performance gave him the confirmation he needed to finally walk away.

“Every fight, for a while now, it’s been diminishing. I’ve seen it more and more,” he said. “This season was my last hurrah, to basically — I was all-in. I was going to put everything I absolutely could into this, and if I was successful, I would just keep going with it and go toward my goals, but if I fall short, that will be the end.

“And this last fight, even if I had put up a better fight and lost, or even if I had won, just the feeling I had in that fight was confirmation to me that this isn’t for me anymore. It’s not who I am anymore. So I’ve got to listen to that. …

“Just being under those lights and face-to-face with your opponent and not wanting to be there, not wanting to push through that intensity that you meet when you’re in a fight, when someone’s trying to attack you. You feel that, that intensity,” he added. “

“Usually you have some sort of resistance to that, mentally, and it’s just not there for me anymore. I don’t have that passion to keep doing this with 100 percent of myself anymore, and I think that’s confirmation to me that I shouldn’t be doing this anymore.”

MacDonald ended his pro career with a record of 23-10-1.