Rory MacDonald is not misunderstood by fans. He isn’t understood at all. And that’s the way he prefers it.
The UFC welterweight contender, who meets Tyron Woodley at UFC 174 on Saturday night, speaks quietly with a conspicuous lack of emotion. Sometimes MacDonald’s words can be intense, but his expression never changes. Those mannerisms and his preppy fashion sense have caused him to be dubbed by some as the "Canadian Psycho," a take on Christian Bale’s serial-killer character in "American Psycho."
So who exactly is the 24-year-old from Vancouver who happens one of the best 170-pound fighters in world? Is he as cold and emotionless as he appears in interviews?
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Probably not. But MacDonald is not about to let us in. He isn’t like Anderson Silva, who messes around with the media as part of his mystique. There’s no attempt at an aura here. MacDonald just really isn’t comfortable putting himself out there to the public.
"It’s nothing that I desire," he said. "I just like fighting and martial arts. … It’s just my personality. I’m not interested in it. It’s like me asking you, why don’t you go to bullfighting events every weekend?"
It’s just my personality. I’m not interested in it.
-Rory MacDonald on media exposure
It took about 10 minutes of talking to him on the phone for him to determine that I’m not a bullfighting enthusiast. Maybe it was the New York accent. Or maybe MacDonald is just a cerebral, perceptive guy.
Not maybe. He is.
MacDonald (16-2) is the kind of person who finds an interest and then completely immerses himself in it. His latest "obsession," as he calls it, is Bitcoin, the up-and-coming, yet controversial digital currency. MacDonald told me he just started a Bitcoin wallet this week. I almost got him to laugh when I asked him if he requested the UFC to pay him in it. Almost.
"It’s a decentralized currency," MacDonald. "It’s new to me. I’m not too educated on the subject, but I think there’s a possibility to make profit on it."
Hunting is another thing MacDonald has thrown himself into. He also recently bought a motorbike and has spent hours working on and riding it.
MacDonald is a total type-A personality. He’s a perfectionist and gets fixated on hobbies. Then, once he masters them, he moves onto something else to obsess about.
MMA has never been put on the back burner, though, not since MacDonald’s teen years. He was just 16 when he became a pro and started his UFC career at age 20. Now, he is ranked No. 2 in the UFC among welterweight contenders. MacDonald has a chance to earn a title shot against Johny Hendricks with an impressive performance over Woodley.
"Everything I do, it sticks," MacDonald said. "I move on to a different hobby, but I don’t forget about them. I don’t drop anything. I educate myself and then continue onto other things. MMA is my true talent and what I excel at the most."
Perhaps he hasn’t grown bored with MMA yet, because he has yet to perfect it. MacDonald is not far off. At 24, he has yet to reach his athletic prime and is among the best the 170-pound division has to offer.
There isn’t any area of the sport the Tristar Gym product doesn’t excel in. The only real criticism is that MacDonald lacks a certain killer instinct. His style is not decidedly violent. He’s supremely technical and more than willing to pick his opponent apart rather than finish him in vicious fashion. Just ask Jake Ellenberger, whose dismantling by MacDonald last year could be described as a slow burn.
No profanity-laced pep talk from UFC president Dana White is going to make MacDonald change his ways, either. If he’s going to become welterweight champion, it’ll be on his own terms. He’s never going to be Matt Brown or Robbie Lawler.
He’s not even going to be a Woodley, who has shown massive punching power in his last two fights. MacDonald is relishing the strategy of trying to figure out and counter the physical imposing, athletic former Division I wrestler.
"Honestly, I think it’s exciting watching two different styles," MacDonald said. "It’s great to watch. For me, I love it. I love fighting different styles and overcoming obstacles. That’s the whole fun of it."
Those are the things that get MacDonald jazzed up. This is a guy whose after-party Saturday night is at a place with "library" in its name. You think he really cares what’s being written about him on the internet?
"I don’t really pay attention to it," MacDonald said. "I don’t really read articles, watch videos or read Twitter. I’m just not really interested in it. I’m busy with other things."
Like learning all he can about Bitcoin. Just like every other MMA fighter, right?