You can’t play fighting, they say. As aphorisms go, it remains one of the most fundamental truths in licensed prize fighting.
That’s why we have to take so seriously the words of Rory MacDonald after his recent retention of the Bellator welterweight title against Jon Fitch in San Jose. The fight was a majority draw. MacDonald alternated between brutal attacks and an inability to wriggle out of the clutches of Fitch when on the ground. It was as if he were lifeless, gripped by a stasis when pinned on the mat. No vim. No life force. “It takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain, and I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore,” said the Canadian post-fight. He laboured in periods during the fight. His psyche was challenging him; as was his growing spirituality and adherence to prayer. He heard God’s voice.
Now MacDonald can be a strange cat. Fascinating, though. Introspective outside the cage; unbridled, ‘a killer’ as he is often referred to, inside it. There were many questions following his utterance to ‘Big’ John McCarthy, who was holding the microphone. They were ethical, moral, philosophical. MacDonald had expressed with clarity a moment of utter truth about professional fighting.It is not normal to train to hit a person in the face. It is, at best, an unusual calling. To make a career of its even more rare. Think of how many human beings actually do this. Actually do this for a career. Or actually get to this level of fighting in front of millions.
MacDonald keeping his belt meant the next appearance will be at Bellator 222 place at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Friday, June 14. There were initially questions over whether MacDonald would retire. He made it plain just a few days later.
MacDonald spoke of an “internal struggle during the fight I never experienced before” and that he had always enjoyed his time in the cage by expressing his techniques in full-out combat against another top-level fighter, but this time, just wasn’t enjoying it; he used to “fight with anger I held within myself from pain I had experienced in my past” but that his heart had changed as he walks “a new life as a Christian”.
For MacDonald, it was belief in God that has given him “peace and freedom from the pain that haunted me in my heart from my younger years”. Amazing. And here lies the rub: spiritual and emotional maturity, and a man who never really wanted to open up being completely opened up and “vulnerable” as modern psychologists would assess it.
We should all celebrate this. Look what fighting, and spirituality has done for him, and presented before us. A man who has bared his body, and now his soul, in the combat arena. I don’t think as aficionados of the sport we can ask much more than that. This is a sport which resonates with honesty. And if we study it closely, we cannot ask for more from him. Then this. “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,” MacDonald has also said since that moment of epiphany in San Jose. He says he will “compete boldly” against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14. Fourteen years he has been in sport. Reading between the lines, my belief is that MacDonald’s career will come to a glorious end within one or two fights. Fascinating, though. Thank you, Rory MacDonald for giving us total honestly. It makes you an utterly authentic fighter. And human being.
PHOTO CREDIT: LUCAS NOONAN/BELLATOR
This Article First Appeared In Fighters Only Magazine.