Rory MacDonald wants his title shot: “I believe that I am the true champion”
Rory MacDonald watched UFC 171 with a vested interest in the outcomes for at least three of the bouts on the card, most notably the title fight between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
MacDonald started the night as a top five-ranked welterweight, but depending on how things played out he could end up as the No. 1 contender. Sure enough the biggest obstacle in his path to a title shot fell by the wayside when Carlos Condit was defeated by Tyron Woodley.
When the new UFC rankings came out on Monday morning, MacDonald sat at No. 2 in the world behind only Lawler, who just lost in the title fight to Hendricks. It was almost like fate had intervened to give MacDonald the title shot he’s longed to receive for the past few months.
"It was definitely a surprise how all the fights went down. It seemed to me like a perfect scenario for me to jump into a title position," MacDonald told FOX Sports. "It was definitely interesting and I’ve been kind of patient to see what the UFC is going to do with it."
Like most fighters, MacDonald enjoyed seeing UFC 171 just because he’s a fan of great mixed martial arts, but there’s always an ulterior motive at work as well. The Canadian fighter loves to size up opponents and begin strategizing for them the moment the fight starts all the way up to the final bell.
It seemed to me like a perfect scenario for me to jump into a title position
— Rory MacDonald after UFC 171 finished
He did that several times throughout the night, but none more than when Hendricks was facing Lawler in the main event.
"Always sizing your competition up no matter what. Obviously I was watching as another competitor, but it was an exciting fight nonetheless," MacDonald said.
Hendricks eventually came out on top and was crowned the new UFC welterweight champion. MacDonald didn’t really care much who won because he believes all they are doing right now is keeping the title warm for him until the next championship fight becomes official.
MacDonald is not short on confidence when it comes to his standing in the welterweight division, and he’s making sure Hendricks is paying close attention to his words.
"I really do believe that I am the No. 1 guy. I believe that I’m the true champion," MacDonald said. "In my mind, regardless who gets the title shot, the belt will be in my hands eventually so they might as well give it to me now so I can take it."
Beyond the fight with Lawler last Saturday night, MacDonald has already studied Hendricks when he was part of former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre’s training camp last year for UFC 167. While MacDonald and St-Pierre are diametrically different in terms of the way they fight, the extra study on Hendricks definitely didn’t hurt.
Now that MacDonald has seen Hendricks on the biggest stage on two different occasions, he’s got a lock on what to do, what not to do, and how he would finish the new welterweight champion.
"I think I match up great. I’ve really felt that for a long time that would be a great fight for me, a fight that I could very well finish," MacDonald said about Hendricks. "Our camp has prepared for him in the past so that’s definitely a bonus. I have my own outlook on how I would fight Johny and my own imagination on how I would go into that fight. I’m very confident if I step into the Octagon against him."
I really do believe that I am the No. 1 guy. I believe that I’m the true champion. In my mind, regardless who gets the title shot, the belt will be in my hands eventually so they might as well give it to me now so I can take it
— Rory MacDonald
The welterweight division has undergone a dramatic shift in the past few months from St-Pierre’s exit to Hendricks being crowned champion, not to mention previous contenders like Condit and Jake Shields falling to defeat in recent fights. While there are now a list of new contenders like Matt Brown, Tyron Woodley and Hector Lombard all chomping at the bit to get a title shot of their own, MacDonald sees himself as the top dog in the division right now and everybody else needs to get in line behind him.
"I think in all aspects I’m ahead of them," MacDonald said. "I’ve been around longer in the UFC and I think my wins over BJ Penn, (Jake) Ellenberger, these are crucial things. Even in the performances I’ve come up short in, they’ve been close fights and proven that I belong there."
Now like the rest of the world, MacDonald heard the news earlier this week that new champion Johny Hendricks will need surgery to repair a torn bicep as well as time off to allow a cracked shin suffered in the fight with Lawler to heal. Current estimations are for Hendricks to be ready to return to action sometime between September and November.
If he’s assured the title shot, MacDonald is happy to wait for Hendricks to get back to full health. If there are unknowns still swirling around Hendricks’ return date, then MacDonald is willing to take on another top contender to cement his place atop the division.
Eventually, MacDonald plans on beating them all anyways, so whether it’s Hendricks or another welterweight, just set them up and he wants to knock them down.
"I’m telling the UFC I’m down for anything," MacDonald said. "If they want me to fight again before a title shot, then fine, I don’t care. If they want me to wait because they want me to fight for the title, then I’ll do that.
"I’m a competitor, I feel that I am the true champion and I’m not scared of anyone in the division. If I need to stay busy and knock someone else out, then I’ll do that."