For the past few years, Rory MacDonald has been considered one of the top rising prospects competing in mixed martial arts and it seemed like only a matter of time before he was a contender vying for championships.
MacDonald evolved and developed as a fighter while his close friend and teammate Georges St-Pierre reigned atop the division, but following his recent exit from the sport, the door was opened for the young Canadian to seize the opportunity to ascend to the throne.
At UFC 170, MacDonald had one of his best performances inside the Octagon yet as he dispatched of Demian Maia while also earning ‘Fight of the Night’ honors as well. With his only loss in the last few years coming by way of split decision to Robbie Lawler last November, MacDonald is throwing his hat into the ring and finally asking for the chance to compete for the title against the winner of the upcoming main event at UFC 171.
"I think it made it pretty clear that I’m ready to be fighting the best in the division," MacDonald told FOX Sports on Tuesday. "Demian’s definitely one of those guys. I think he’s one of the top talents in the division, he is newer to the division and people may not recognize that as much, but I think it puts me right there for a title shot. I’m really pulling to fight the winner of the (Johny) Hendricks vs. Lawler fight."
I have the maturity to hold onto that title for a long time and keep developing as a fighter, and keep growing
— Rory MacDonald
Hendricks and Lawler will face off for the UFC welterweight title in March to crown a new champion for the first time since St-Pierre’s exit from the sport late last year. MacDonald fought to a close decision with Lawler and still has never faced Hendricks, but he believes he’s put together the right combination of tools to beat either fighter once the dust settles on their bout at UFC 171.
"I think the fans want to see it, it’s a big money fight, it’s going to get a lot of attention and I think that my talent is at that level. I feel that I am the best in the division and I’m ready to prove it to the fans and to the UFC," MacDonald said.
"At this point I have the maturity to get that title and to hold onto it most importantly. Not just win the title and maybe lose it in a fight or two, but I have the maturity to hold onto that title for a long time and keep developing as a fighter, and keep growing."
While it might be easy for MacDonald to point at Lawler as the fighter he’d rather face because there would be a chance to redeem a loss, in all honesty the 24-year old fighter doesn’t care who wins on March 15 so long as he gets to face the winner.
"I just want to fight the best man," MacDonald said. "I’m pulling for whoever’s the best man that night. I want to fight the winner, I want to fight the best. I hope they recognize my motivation for the title, they saw my fight and I hope they saw that fire."
I’m pulling for whoever’s the best man that night. I want to fight the winner, I want to fight the best.
— Rory MacDonald
When UFC 171 is over it will also mark the first time there’s been a new UFC welterweight champion in nearly six years following St-Pierre’s long reign as champion. Either Hendricks or Lawler will capture the belt while also reclaiming the welterweight gold for America after the title sat in St-Pierre’s possession in Canada for so many years.
MacDonald believes it’s his time to return the belt to its proper home.
"I think it stayed in Canada for so long, it belongs here," MacDonald said. "I’m going to be the one, it’s going to be around my waist for the next few years."