by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
For Rob “Maximus” Macdonald, the Ultimate Fighting Championship experience turned out to be more of a nightmare, than a dream come true.

After being cast as a member of the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, he was quickly eliminated in his first fight by eventual season finalist Brad Imes.

The following year, he lost two of three UFC bouts and left the promotion shortly thereafter, leading some to wonder if it had been a case of too much, too fast for the talented Canadian fighter.

Almost a year-and-a-half later, Macdonald returned to mixed martial arts, new team in toe, to challenge highly regarded prospect Eliot Marshall for his Ring of Fire light heavyweight championship this past weekend in Colorado.

In a fight where he was the decided underdog, Macdonald showed himself to be a completely new fighter, dominating all aspects of the fight on his way to claiming the promotion’s 205-pound divisional title.

Shortly after returning home, Macdonald spoke to MMAWeekly about his big win this past weekend, his rejuvenation as a fighter, and where he’s headed in the coming year.

MMAWeekly: First off, Rob, tell us how you feel about your performance in your win over Eliot Marshall in Ring of Fire this past weekend.

Rob Macdonald: I feel amazing. I think it’s the best I’ve ever fought in my life. It’s a huge win, over an opponent like Eliot, he’s the real deal, he’s a very high-caliber opponent; so I’m on top of the world right now.

As fighters, that’s our party – you train hard, you work hard, you sacrifice, and then you let it all out on fight night. So it felt really good to be able to fight. The best thing about it was that I had a whole crew of people there behind me that I love like family. So it felt really good to perform that well in front of them all and get back into the cage.

MMAWeekly: After the fight you said you are a completely different fighter than you were in the UFC. Tell us about those changes and how they came about.

Rob Macdonald: I switched schools from Team Tompkins to Shah Franco’s, that happened last year. One of the holes I’ve had in my game is my jiu-jitsu, my ground game. I got submitted by Jason Lambert. I got submitted by Eric Schafer, and so it was something I knew I needed to work on.

Shah Franco’s one of the best Jiu-Jitsu coaches in the world, under Silvio Behring, who’s an absolute legend in Brazil. Under Shah Franco, I’ve learned so much and now I feel I’m a really well-rounded fighter, rather than just a wrestler and ground and pound fighter. So I think I’ve reinvented myself and you’ll see bigger and better things from Rob MacDonald.

MMAWeekly: Were you able to implement some of the new things you’ve been working on in the fight with Eliot?

Rob Macdonald: Yeah, absolutely, very subtle things, though. Obviously I didn’t submit him, I took him down and ground and pounded him, but if you’re a student of the game you noticed my positioning was very good, and I almost caught him in a kimura. I was always in good positions for strikes and I didn’t get submitted by Eliot, and don’t underestimate that.

I mean, he really is an amazing athlete when it comes to jiu-jitsu and fighting. So the fact that I was able to control him on the ground, I think that shows how far my jiu-jitsu has come under Shah Franco, and how far I’ve progressed as a fighter.

MMAWeekly: How important was it for you to go out and put on a decisive performance after the difficulties you had in the UFC?

Rob Macdonald: It wasn’t so important to show the public, the fans, who I am. At the end of the day, I fight for me and the people that put a lot of effort into me. There’s been some people in my life of late, Shah Franco; Brian Bynoe, who’ve been working my boxing; Gym Jones, a facility in Utah that’s really worked on my conditioning and mental prep; people that have put a lot into me.

That’s the way I pay them back, is by performing to the best of my ability. That’s something that always feels good as a fighter, to give back to your trainers and friends in that regard. It absolutely felt amazing and especially after a year, to show the people closest to me what I can do, it’s just an amazing feeling.

MMAWeekly: With the win, you’re back on the right track. What do you see for yourself as we head into the New Year and beyond?

Rob Macdonald: That’s a hard question for me to answer right now. That was my first fight in a year-and-a-half. I’ve decided to take this month and build for 2008, but I absolutely believe with the team I have assembled around me right now, with my potential and work ethic, I feel I can be one of the best fighters in the world in the next few years.

It’s a building process. It’s going to take fighting the right people and performing to the best of my ability, but I really think it’s possible. Where do I think I fit in at this minute? I think I can compete with anyone on the planet, and it’s just a matter of going in there and proving it, day in and day out.

I definitely want to defend my title (at Ring of Fire). I think the organization is great and I think you’re going to see big things with the organization. I’d like to fight a couple of other fights as well. As regards to where, UFC, M-1, IFL, EliteXC, Strikeforce, it doesn’t really matter. I just want to fight the best opponent possible, someone I think that is going to challenge me.

MMAWeekly: Sounds good, Rob. Thanks for taking time out for us. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?

Rob Macdonald: I’d like to thank all the people who put a lot of work into me: Shah Franco, my trainer and mentor; Brian Bynoe, who’s another trainer to me and works my hands; Gym Jones, they’ve been a blessing to me physically, mentally and spiritually; and Brian Cain, sports psychologist who’s been another Godsend to me as well.

These are people that have really put me back on the map by believing in me, so I have the perfect team assembled. To the fans, thanks for the support, and never lose faith in me, and I think you’re going to see really big things from me in 2008 and years to come.