Why Rory MacDonald’s honest comments are refreshing and need to be supported

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The most interesting moment of Saturday night’s Bellator 220 main event came after the scores were announced.

Following a grueling bout that ended in a majority draw, welterweight champion Rory MacDonald was asked about his performance against Jon Fitch and the Canadian delivered one of the most honest and thought-provoking post-fight commentaries in the history of this sport:

 

.@Rory_MacDonald‘s post-fight interview. #Bellator220

“I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore.” pic.twitter.com/6Iosk6RPID

— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) April 28, 2019

 

MacDonald is 29 years old and the reigning Bellator MMA welterweight champion.

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While that traditionally would put him right in the midst of his athletic prime and seemingly mean that he’s right in the sweet spot when it comes to making good money and having big fights, the thing people often lose sight of with MacDonald is that he’s been competing professionally since he was 16 and that just like the rest of us, things happen in life that have a way of changing our outlook on our profession, the way we allocate our time and lives as a whole.

MacDonald is no longer the frustrated, angry kid who got his dad to drop him off at Toshido Martial Arts in Kelowna, British Columbia all those years ago. He’s not the fiery, quick to aggression teen who got saddled with the nickname “The Waterboy,” because of how closely he resembled Bobby Boucher, getting all riled up and wrecking shop for South Central Louisiana State University (Go Mud Dogs!) in the movie of the same name.

He’s a 13-year veteran with 26 fights on his resume, the last 17 of them coming at the highest levels in the sport.

Over the last five years, he’s fought Robbie Lawler, Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley, Tarec Saffiedine, Robbie Lawler again, Stephen Thompson, Paul Daley, Douglas Lima, Gegard Mousasi and Jon Fitch. In an age where athletes are picking their spots and searching for the path of least resistance, MacDonald has traveled a daunting road, emerging from those 10 bouts with a 5-4-1 record, a world title victory, an all-time great bout in his rematch with Lawler and people asking a ton of questions about what his future holds.

He’s also gotten married, started a family and built a deep, meaningful relationship with God.

People change and Saturday’s post-fight speech was an open, honest acknowledgement of that from MacDonald, who publicly questioned whether he still has what it takes to step into the cage and look to put another man through pain.

While that may not be what you want to hear if you’re Bellator President Scott Coker and you’re supposed to have MacDonald defending his title in the semifinals of the Welterweight Grand Prix later this summer, it’s the kind of frank, genuine remarks we ask for from athletes all the time and MacDonald deserves credit for addressing the situation on the spot and off the cuff.

Here’s an athlete who has long been criticized, mocked and meme’d for his awkwardness with the media and what some played up as a lack of humanity.

He was “The Canadian Psycho,” the guy who just wanted to hurt people and spoke in very short, monotone sentences standing in the center of the cage after a tough 25-minute battle with a grizzled veteran, answering questions about his uneven performance with refreshing honesty and all kinds of introspection.

MacDonald will surely take time now to figure out what comes next.

He’ll talk to his wife, family, and coaches to determine where he wants to go from here, but two entities that shouldn’t factor into his decision-making process are the promotion and the fans.

MacDonald doesn’t owe anybody anything.

He doesn’t owe it Bellator MMA to see the Welterweight Grand Prix through or continue fighting until he drops the welterweight title, not that you would expect Coker and his team to try and argue such a thing.

Nor does he owe it to the fans to continue putting himself in harm’s way for their entertainment. He has stepped into the cage 26 times, many of them as one of the star attractions, and competed against world-class athletes in a punishing, unforgiving sport for their enjoyment.

Aaron Bronsteter of TSN offered a terrific three-pack of thoughts on the subject Sunday morning:

 

One big issue in not just MMA, but all sports, is the commodification of athletes.

To many fans, athletes exist for the sole purpose of providing us with entertainment and once that begins to dissipate, they become disposable.

Commodification is a cancer to the idea of “sport”

— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) April 28, 2019

 

 

Rory MacDonald owes us nothing and owes himself everything.

Just because his life’s purpose may not align with what others expect, does not make him any less human.

— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) April 28, 2019

 

 

He is only 29, but has been competing for more than half of his life. If he feels there is a higher calling, that personal evolution should be embraced and respected.

We all evolve and live our lives as best we can and are entitled to that.

— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) April 28, 2019

 

If people are going to lobby for fighters to hang up their gloves and walk away when they’re showing obvious signs of decline — or stay retired when it’s clear that they shouldn’t be competing any longer — than that same approach has to be taken when a fighter like MacDonald begins to question whether he still has what it takes to continue stepping into the cage and trying to separate another man from his consciousness.

This is an inherently dangerous sport and if MacDonald is expressing doubts about his ability to continue competing, not only should people support whatever decision he ultimately makes, but there is a case to be made for not wanting to see him step back into the cage again if this is genuinely how he’s feeling and there is no reason to believe that isn’t the case.

Everyone has seen athletes who aren’t fully committed to what they’re doing give it “one last shot” or attempt to “recapture the magic” — they look out of place and you can tell their heart isn’t in it. Even if the skills and athleticism are still there, which they clearly are in MacDonald’s case, the fire and passion isn’t and that is a recipe for trouble.

There were points in Saturday’s bout with Fitch where the younger version of MacDonald would have ended things in barbaric fashion.

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In a few different places, he had the veteran reeling against the fence. Not even four years ago, MacDonald had Lawler in a similar position and unleashed a wave of offense that included head kicks, knees and punishing elbows, all thrown with malice and designed to put his opponent away. Against Fitch on Saturday night in San Jose, MacDonald waited, looked for the perfect shot, opportune opening and when he did let loose, it wasn’t with the same kind of intent he’s exhibited in the past.

He’s a changed man and if he isn’t sure he’s capable of fighting the way he needs to in order to beat the top-flight competition he’s facing every time he steps into the cage, it might very well be time for MacDonald to step away and start the next chapter of his life.

The post Why Rory MacDonald’s honest comments are refreshing and need to be supported appeared first on The Ring.

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