Former UFC welterweight top contender Rory MacDonald (pictured) will be entering the octagon for the first – and perhaps the last – time since losing to reigning champion Robbie Lawler last July when he meets Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 89.
MacDonald has been sitting the sidelines while engaged in unsuccessful contract negotiations with the UFC. It’s often difficult to get what you’re asking for when coming off a loss, even if the scrap was of the epic variety.
So, instead of accepting the take-it-or-leave-it deal the UFC presented him, MacDonald decided to roll the dice on himself. An impressive finish over fast-rising Thompson would certainly give him plenty of leverage at the negotiating table. On the flipside, a bad loss could leave MacDonald with a worse offer than the one he turned down.
MMA fans have seen this go multiple ways before. Former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson took a split decision win over Jorge Masvidal in November’s free agent fight. “Smooth” wound up accepting what he believed to be a better offer from Bellator MMA. Heavyweight Matt Mitrione was TKO’d by Travis Browne on the final fight on his UFC contract and also ended up bouncing to Bellator.
Heavyweight top contender Alistair Overeem, on the other hand, capitalized on his free agent fight by putting Andrei Arlovski to sleep in May. Overeem subsequently scored a lucrative UFC contract extension, as well as a title fight against champ Stipe Miocic at UFC 203.
The primary difference between MacDonald’s situation and the others is that he’s only 26, the age where most athletes are just entering the prime of their careers. There’s no way the UFC would simply let a talented youngster walk right into Bellator’s awaiting arms, would they?
This is the same Rory MacDonald who former UFC welterweight king Georges St-Pierre anointed his heir apparent several years ago. However, it’s also the same Rory MacDonald who never took over the reigns that GSP left for dead.
MacDonald has been riding the fine line between potential and production for quite some time, and that’s why the UFC didn’t send him an offer that he felt was acceptable. Had he beaten Lawler to capture the welterweight crown 11 months ago, that wouldn’t have been the case.
Which leads us to Saturday, where MacDonald is presented with a golden opportunity to cash-in on his talents with a spectacular performance against one of the division’s hottest prospects. If not, a two-fight skid is the worst thing you can take into a negotiation with the UFC over money.