It’s not often that a fighter in the midst of a two-fight losing streak would deserve such a huge payday. But in the case of Bellator MMA and Rory MacDonald, that’s exactly what should happen.
MacDonald just suffered his second straight loss to Stephen Thompson at the UFC’s most recent Fight Night card on June 18. That fight was a de facto no. 1 contender bout in the UFC welterweight division, and it was also the last fight on MacDonald’s current UFC contract. He is now a free agent.
MacDonald already stated his intent to test the free agent market once his current UFC contract expired, and he’s even already negotiated with the UFC – negotiations that ultimately went nowhere. The notion of free agency in mixed martial arts is one that has gained traction over the last year or so, most notably with the signing of former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson by Bellator earlier this year.
Bellator has brought in other noteworthy free agents over the last year or so, including Josh Thomson and Matt Mitrione, who makes his Bellator debut at the organization’s second annual “Dynamite” card on June 24. Simply put, Bellator must back a dump truck full of money up to MacDonald’s house and tell him to name his price.
MacDonald has maxed out his potential in the UFC. He beat some of the best welterweights in the world, including Nate Diaz, B.J. Penn (even if he was clearly past his prime), Jake Ellenberger, Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. Unfortunately, he came up short twice against presumably his biggest rival in the UFC, Robbie Lawler – with MacDonald’s second loss to Lawler coming in a welterweight title fight last year.
Could MacDonald work his way back to title contention in the UFC? Sure, he’s only 26 years old. He’s anything but over the hill. But the welterweight division is deep, and it’s only getting better. Besides the fighters I already mentioned, other exciting fighters are climbing the ladder, including Thompson (who just defeated MacDonald), Kelvin Gastelum and Neil Magny. Oh, and MacDonald’s old rival, Carlos Condit, is still lurking in the weeds somewhere.
However, the welterweight division in Bellator is nothing to sneeze at either. Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov just put on a dominant performance against the newly-signed Henderson earlier this year. Bellator’s welterweight division boasts a healthy mix of young talent like Brennan Ward and Michael “Venom” Page, and established veterans like Paul Daley, Josh Koscheck and Evangelista Santos.
Adding MacDonald to a still-growing roster would give Bellator a much-needed boost of credibility. The organization will hopefully get away from the “circus” fights that it’s used so far to draw attention to its product, and signing a big-name athlete with MacDonald’s pedigree can only help to boost Bellator’s image, as it continues to deal with the unfortunate death of Kimbo Slice earlier this month.
Plus, there is this interesting item, which is making the rounds:
GSP is here at Bellator #DynamiteII.
— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) June 23, 2016
Not only is former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre still considered the best MMA fighter of all time by many, he’s also MacDonald’s friend and mentor. Is it just coincidence that GSP is choosing to take in Bellator’s “Dynamite 2” card right when MacDonald becomes a free agent? Probably. But if GSP meets with Bellator President Scott Coker and likes what he hears about Bellator, it’s not hard to imagine that GSP might advise MacDonald to pursue new opportunities.
Signing with Bellator would open a whole new world of opportunities for MacDonald and would give him the opportunity to be the top dog that he just can’t seem to capitalize on in the UFC. MacDonald can test the mettle of Ward and Page to see if they’re for real. He can further build his resume against fighters like Daley and Koscheck, and a fight between MacDonald and Koreshkov could be in the running for “Fight of the Year.”
MacDonald goes by the nickname “The Red King.” But if Bellator wants to make their biggest splash yet by signing one of the best welterweights on the planet, they’re going to need to show MacDonald a ton of green. Which they absolutely must do.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC