Following some soul searching after his last fight, Rory MacDonald has decided to move forward with a fight against Neiman Gracie in the next round of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix on Friday, June 14 from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
MacDonald will put his title up for grabs for the second time in less than two months after keeping his belt following a majority draw in his last contest against Jon Fitch at Bellator 220 this past weekend.
Afterwards, MacDonald didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about fighting again but upon reflection, the reigning Bellator champion opted to defend his title in June against Gracie.
“I want to take the time to thank everybody who had the chance to see my fight last weekend and share that candid moment I had in the Bellator cage with John McCarthy,” MacDonald said in a press release. “I felt an internal struggle during the fight I never experienced before. I have always enjoyed my time in the cage by expressing my techniques in full out combat against another top-level fighter, but this time I wasn’t enjoying it. It felt more like a job than the satisfaction I am used to feeling by being dominant and applying what I have practiced to defeat someone.
“Even during my dominant moments, I felt I was completing a task and these feelings were a bit confusing to me because it’s new. I used to fight with anger I held within myself from pain I had experienced in my past. To be honest, I believe this comes from my heart changing as I’m walking a new life as a Christian. The Lord has given me peace and freedom from the pain that haunted me in my heart from my younger years. I would only satisfy myself for a short period of time from winning fights until the feeling would resonate in me again. So, now I don’t feel the same emotions I have in the past while competing.”
According to MacDonald, he is not walking away from the sport but rather returning to action in June to defend his title again in the semifinals of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix.
“I still and will always have a passion for martial arts and do not believe, as a Christian, that it’s wrong for myself to compete in a professional sport that is violent. In fact, I’m happy to testify about being a Christian on this platform I’ve been given,” MacDonald said.
“To be clear, I am not retiring from my professional MMA career, I’ve always been true and honest in the sport and I spoke from the heart. As for my career at the moment. I am going to move forward in this tournament and compete boldly against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14.”
MacDonald vs. Gracie joins Bellator 222 alongside another title fight as current bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell faces RIZIN bantamweight king Kyoji Horiguchi in a rematch.
In their first fight this past December, Horiguchi submitted Caldwell to win the inaugural RIZIN championship and now he will look to duplicate that performance with a chance to win Bellator gold this time around.
“I am very happy and excited to see RIZIN champion Kyoji Horiguchi fight Bellator champion Darrion Caldwell for the prestigious Bellator world bantamweight title,” RIZIN president Nobuyuki Sakakibara said. “The fans have always wanted to see who is the best in the world, and now they will get opportunities to see who really is the world’s best with this rematch.
“We hope this action between Bellator and RIZIN can provide the industry with more thrilling and appealing matchups, eventually leading to the popularity gain of this sport.”
While there are two title fights on the card, the main event for Bellator 222 will be a showdown between former UFC fighters as Chael Sonnen takes on Lyoto Machida.
The Bellator 222 card airs exclusively on DAZN in the United States.
Bellator 220: MacDonald vs. Fitch Fight Highlights
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