Michael McDonald sidelined indefinitely with hand injury

The 23-year-old is one of the hardest-hitting bantamweights in MMA, but is being forced to power down until doctors can get to the root of his problem.

That has to hurt.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Three months after a disappointing loss to Urijah Faber in a matchup of top three bantamweights, Michael McDonald has figured out the approach he wants to take with him into the octagon. Now, the wait is on to implement it.

After a layoff that would have most fighters itching to get back into the cage, the Californian has no timetable for his return, remaining sidelined with a hand injury that is still not fully diagnosed.

Interestingly, McDonald noticed the problem not during training but engaging in his other passion: woodworking. He realized that when he would pick up pieces of plywood, his right hand couldn't quite grip them with the same strength as his left. While a fracture was originally suspected by McDonald, it has since been ruled out, and the true cause is still under investigation. For now, the waiting game is on.

"There's a big bump on my hand, and when I start punching that's what starts hurting, is the bump on my hand," he told FOX Sports. "It's what's causing me to lose strength. The doctor thinks it's tendon damage. I think I have another month of rest from fighting before I can go in and get an MRI."

Though injury is never welcome, the break comes as a positive development for McDonald, who strung together three grueling camps that spanned nearly the entirety of 2013. The work of trying to whip himself to a championship level was so trying, so arduous that in a bizarre way, his loss to Faber came with it some relief.

McDonald's bionic right hand is in the shop for some repairs.

Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

"Believe it or not, it was actually kind of satisfying," he said. "Fighting is a 24-hour a day job. Even your rest is for your work. Your food is for your work. Everything you do is for your work, so there is literally no rest when you're fighting. I'd had like 6-7 months of work straight and I kind of knew if I beat Faber, I'd be pushing through four more months of straight working. Of course it sucked to lose. I'm not saying it was nice to lose, but it is nice to have a little bit of a break. I never like to lose. Not when it comes to building my career, but in building my life, it's nice to have a breath of fresh air and relax a little bit."

The time away has given him opportunity to analyze what went wrong last time out. In a surprise, Faber out-struck then powerful McDonald (16-3), knocking him down once en route to the submission win.

McDonald said that prior to the fight, he was so concerned about Faber's guillotine choke that he ended up customizing his game plan around it. The end result, of course, was Faber by guillotine choke, but it's not so much the finish that bothered McDonald as everything that led to it. Because he was so focused on that one thing, he felt as if that started a snowball effect of incorrect decisions that led him into trouble.

"I feel like it solidified in my mind after I fought Urijah that I am not supposed to fight with a game plan," he said. "Every single time I've done that, I've failed in some way. Urijah did great, but the problem wasn't him, it was me. Fights are never as you expect, so I believe that's the last time I will do that and customize myself. I'm just going to trust myself and the skills God's given me. That's how I've gotten success, and that's how I'm meant to do things."

Despite over three years competing on the Zuffa, first in the WEC and now in the UFC, McDonald is still just 23 years old. There is plenty of learning still to be done, and skills to be added to his prodigious punching power -- his six knockdowns are tied for most in UFC history.

With his fight approach altered, McDonald will bide his time until receiving news on his hand by occupying himself with his woodworking, which he calls "his favorite thing on the planet." Late last week, he was finishing a custom cabinet installation. Perhaps when he can pick up that plywood with his right hand, he'll know he's ready to get back into training camp.

"I just have to make sure my hand is at full strength before jumping in again," he said. "I love fighting, but I just have to make sure I'm healthy and can do it before breaking my body in the process."


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