Interview by Bryan Levick - It would be difficult to recall a time when the UFC welterweight division has been more competitive than it is today. Even with longtime welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre on the shelf with a knee injury since last November, the weight class has been getting just as much attention of not more than any other weight class in the organization. On top of GSP’s injury the division has seen the retirement of BJ Penn and the suspension of Nick Diaz over the past nine months, but the 170-pound fighters have been putting on great fights and keeping their names in the news at all times.
In recent weeks we have heard Interim UFC Welterweight Champion call out top contender Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks, a man coming off back to back wins over Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck responding to Condit with a challenge of his own. Then seemingly out of nowhere Rory MacDonald, the fighter many claim to be the heir apparent to GSP’s throne, decided he would try and entice Penn out of retirement with an offer to meet inside the Octagon when the UFC returns to Toronto this coming September.
Penn had been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a fight that could ignite the fire deep inside of him and he seems to have found it in MacDonald. He responded rather quickly and accepted the proposed bout.
This will be the toughest test yet for the soon to be 23-year-old British Columbia native. That’s not discounting his bout with Condit at UFC 115, but with MacDonald throwing down the gauntlet it’s important that he comes out and shows he made the right decision in challenging the former two division champion Penn.
In a span of just over two months fans will be treated to a UFC Welterweight unification bout pitting St. Pierre vs. Condit. That bout is scheduled for UFC 154 and will take place in November at The Bell Center in Montreal. The co-main event will determine who faces the winner of that contest when Hendricks squares off against the surging Kampmann who is coming off a TKO victory over Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Of course before those two bouts take place we will see the return of Penn to action when he faces MacDonald at UFC 152.
It was quite surprising to hear the normally quiet MacDonald come out and call Penn out. He is usually pretty reserved and intent on letting his fighting do the majority of his talking, but he wasn’t the one who came up with the idea to fight Penn.
“The UFC had expressed interest in seeing Penn & I fight,” admitted MacDonald in an interview with MMAFrenzy. “At the time I had no idea that BJ was considering coming out of retirement. So I thought I would jump at the chance to fight him.”
With an outstanding record of 14-1, MacDonald is considered one of the sports brightest stars. In his lone loss to Condit he controlled the veteran and former WEC Welterweight Champion for the first two rounds before losing by TKO with just seven seconds left in the third and final round. He is coming off an absolute thrashing of British fighter Che Mills at UFC 145 and a win over Penn would certainly catapult him to the top of the line as far as welterweight contenders are concerned.
“I believe that this sport is performance based,” MacDonald explained. “If BJ and I go out there and put on a boring fight no one will want to see me fight the other top guys currently in the spotlight. On the flip side I can put on an exciting, technical fight and walk away victorious then it puts me in the mix and in the top five of the welterweight division.”
Since making the move to begin training at Tri-Star MacDonald has had the opportunity to train alongside St. Pierre, Kenny Florian and a host of other great mixed martial artists. Of course the question of whether or not he would ever fight GSP has come up and MacDonald has emphatically said he would not take that fight and would rather move up and fight at 185. With St. Pierre’s long and storied history with Penn, one would think MacDonald would pick the champions brain, but at the end of the day MacDonald is the one who has to step inside the Octagon and face Penn this time around, not St. Pierre.
“When it comes to fighting I can only rely on myself,” MacDonald said. “Of course Georges can give me pointers and tips, but in the end it’s my fight and not his.”