Viewed by many as a potential successor to Georges St-Pierre as UFC welterweight champion, title contender Rory MacDonald may soon be in a position to claim the title formerly held and made famous by his mentor and training partner. The native of Quesnel, BC, moved to Montreal four years ago to work with GSP and coach Firas Zahabi at Tristar gym; under their tutelage he has gone 8-1 in his last nine fights dating to April 2011. Back riding a three-fight win streak, we caught up with the 25-year-old to learn a bit more about the man who may be future king at 170.
You were born in BC, but you’ve been living and training in Montreal for a few years now. You were supposed to fight here at UFC 186 but the fight was scrapped; still, how cool do you think it would be to fight at the Bell Centre?
RORY MacDONALD: I’m always excited to fight in Canada, but to fight at home where I’m training would be even more exciting since I would be able to continue training here at Tristar Gym during the week before the fight instead of doing so in some hotel room. I’d be interested to see how the Montreal fans respond, being a Western Canadian boy.
Was it an easy decision to leave everything behind and move here?
RM: It was tough because of family and I was comfortable there. Quebec was so foreign to me; I didn’t really know anyone here. I basically only moved here for training. I came to get better at mixed martial arts and continue my goal of being world champion. I felt this was going to be the best place for me to achieve that. It was tough but I don’t regret it one bit. I’ve been very successful working at this gym and I’m very happy with my decision.
What have you adopted as some of your favorite spots around town since moving to Montreal?
RM: Montreal is not what I’m used to. I’m used to big mountains and the outdoors. I’m not much of a city guy. What I really like to do around here is go up north to the Laurentians. Lately I’ve been going to Morin-Heights and Tremblant. I even went snowboarding for the first time in six years. I went slow at first and didn’t try anything crazy.
|Rory and Georges St-Pierre have become training partners and good friends over the years. |
We know Georges St-Pierre is your friend and mentor, but how much are you looking forward to stepping out of his shadow?
RM: It’s a good and bad thing to be attached to Georges’ name. A lot of people like to say I’m the next Georges, but I keep repeating that there won’t be another Georges. In my opinion, he’s one of the greatest martial artists of all time. I’m not trying to be Georges, I have my own style and my own journey in MMA. We’ve been really good training partners and friends the last few years and he’s helped me a ton. I just want people to understand that I’m not trying to ride his coattails. But I am appreciative that people think I can be at that level.
You’re also following in GSP’s well-tailored footsteps by dressing in suits for most press conferences and promotional appearances, something few fighters choose to do. Do you think the sport would be better off if more guys adopted similar “professional” attire when appearing in front of the media?
RM: I definitely copied Georges on that! (laughs) I think it’s important that if you’re going to try and represent yourself in a top league like the NHL, NBA or NFL, a lot of these guys dress professionally. I think it’s important to propel ourselves to that level. If we want to get paid like these guys, if we want to be represented by the top sports agents, or if we want to be shown on the SportsCenters of the world, I think we need to be good athletes, be respectful and dress well. It all goes together.
Seems that you’ve been promised a shot at the welterweight belt many times, but you’re still waiting for a fight to materialize. Is it just a matter of time?
RM: It’s definitely upsetting, but it just makes me hungrier to get in there and do damage. I guess the UFC title doesn’t represent the same thing to me that it used to, but it makes me hungry in a different way. I want to go out there and demolish everyone.
You seem like a pretty serious dude. What types of things make you laugh?
|Over the summer, Rory and Penguins defenseman Kristopher Letang train together in Montreal. |
RM: (laughs) Just joking around with the guys at the gym. I don’t really know how to qualify my humor but when it comes to my job, I’m really serious. I have a goal in mind and I don’t want to waste my time and go off course. When I’m at the gym, I work very hard to achieve my goal and to get better as a mixed martial artist. I’m not here for the lifestyle. I take it very seriously.
Before getting serious about MMA, you played minor hockey back in BC. What kind of hockey player were you?
RM: I was a goal scorer playing center. I loved carrying the puck, stickhandling, and making fancy plays. But I loved scoring goals.
We know you’ve trained with some NHLers in the past, like Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. How beneficial do you think MMA training can be to hockey players?
RM: I really like Kris. He’s a super cool, down-to-earth guy. We were doing mostly fitness training together. We specialize in different movements, but we all have that competitive nature. When we train together, we want to one up each other and we push each other in a different way than when you work out with the same guys you train with every day.
You’ve gone through a series of nicknames to date. You started as “The Waterboy”, then it was “Ares”, and now you’re “Red King”. Do you plan on sticking with that, or do you just enjoy changing it up every few years?
RM: I’ll probably have more in the future, too. (laughs) It all goes with my inspiration. My name is a form of an Irish/Gaelic name that means “Red King”. I also liked it because I’m going for the championship of the world, like a king. It was just a fun thing to do.
For several of your UFC fights, a random fan picked your walkout music. How exactly did that come about?
RM: One day I changed my cell phone number, but the guy at the UFC in charge of the music didn’t know. So he was texting that fan who had my old number, thinking it was me. The fan was selecting my music. (laughs) They eventually realized it and I’m picking my music now.
Follow Rory on Twitter and stay up-to-date on all the latest UFC info at UFC.com. For tickets to UFC 186, taking place on April 25 at the Bell Centre, visit evenko.ca.
This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 29 No. 3.