by Jody Peterson for MMAWeekly.com (Photos by Julie McQuinn)
It was less then 3 months ago when, live on Spike TV, Jason MacDonald shocked many MMA fans by submitting Ultimate Fighter franchise star Ed Herman in the first round of his UFC debut. On December 30th MacDonald will make his pay-per-view debut when he faces another Ultimate Fighter franchise star, the hard-hitting former middleweight contender Chris Leben.

As the night draws close and training winds down, MacDonald is right where he needs to be for December 30th.

“I’m feeling great,” said MacDonald, who took some time to speak with MMAWeekly from his home recently. “Training has gone very well and I’m 100% healthy. We have had an excellent camp and I am really looking forward to this fight.”

At UFC 66, MacDonald, an MMA veteran of 24 fights will enter the famed octagon for the second time in as many fights as the underdog to a Spike TV star.

“Being the underdog to a TV star doesn’t bother me,” said MacDonald. “I’m confident in my abilities and I know I’ve put the work in to be successful. I see it as an opportunity. Fighting Ed (Herman) at the Ortiz / Shamrock event and winning has opened another door for me. I believe the UFC rewards you for fighting hard and entertaining the audience and that’s what Ed and I did and now I plan to bring the same exciting fight to Chris Leben. This is my reward.”

Looking back on his UFC debut MacDonald was happy with the outcome. “We had a game plan to come in and stand with Ed, to force him into making a mistake. As it turned out I threw a punch and we ended up clinching. From there it went to the ground, which is great as I’m more then comfortable down there. We scrambled a bit until he made a mistake and I caught him.”

Catch him he did, in just under 3 minutes, with Herman tapping to a triangle choke.

“Ed had been saying he would come in, take me down and beat me up. It didn’t end up going that way but I don’t know, maybe Leben will think the same. If he does, then great, I’m ready.”

Only 2 fights ago Chris Leben was fighting for the UFC #1 contender spot against the since crowned Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. MacDonald sees this next fight as a real chance to firmly establish him in the UFC Middleweight class.

“You know the 185’s are deep in the UFC, there is [Anderson] Silva obviously, [Travis] Lutter, [Rich] Franklin, [Mike] Swick, [Nathan] Marquardt, [Dean] Lister, and [Chris] Leben are all right in that mix. I see this as a chance to put my name in that class.”

Knowing Leben likes to stand and trade and has yet to be submitted in his career the Gracie Barra submission master has added Golden Gloves boxer Kevin Royal to his training team of Mark Pavelich and Josh Russell in preparation for UFC 66. Also joining MacDonald as he prepares were among others, professional fighters Victor Valimaki and Jason Day.

“It’s important to prepare properly for fights and I feel our team has done that for this fight. We have a game plan and we’ll put it to action December 30th. My team does an excellent job getting me ready and now it’s just a matter of taking care of my end.”

After winning his first UFC fight MacDonald was rewarded with a new multi-fight deal with the UFC. He says although he is very appreciative of the opportunity, he deals with the fights one at a time.

“It’s a great thing being here, in the UFC. It’s what I have worked very hard for so to that end it’s very rewarding, but I just focus on the task at hand and take them one fight at a time. I really believe you get rewarded for working hard and performing well so that’s what I want to do. I will go out December 30th and win and let the rest take care of itself.”

Before ending the conversation, MacDonald wanted to take an opportunity to pass along a warm thank you to all his fans at MMAWeekly and abroad for their continued support and to thank his team and training partners Mark Pavelich, Josh Russell and company for their continued efforts in keeping his training at an elite level.