Rory MacDonald grows into a mixed martial arts champion in Montreal

For years, Rory MacDonald trained in the shadow of greats like Georges St-Pierre. Now, at 29, MacDonald has carved out his own space. 

Originally from B.C., MacDonald came to Montreal to train with the top fighters in the country

Rory MacDonald decided to move to Montreal 10 years ago so he could train with the top guys in the MMA scene. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Rory MacDonald first walked into Tristar Gym, in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, 10 years ago.

He was 19 at the time, and suddenly found himself surrounded by some of the biggest names in the sport of mixed martial arts, such as David Loiseau, Denis Kang and perhaps the biggest name in the sport's history — Georges St-Pierre.

The Kelowna, B.C., native knew he was where he was meant to be. 

"It seemed like all the top guys in the MMA scene were training [at Tristar]. So I made the decision at 21 years old to move here full time and I haven't left yet," MacDonald says. 

For years, MacDonald trained in the shadow of greats like St-Pierre while he built his reputation in the octagon. 

Now, at 29, MacDonald has clearly carved out his own space among those greats. 

He is the reigning Bellator MMA welterweight world champion. His poster hangs from the roof at Tristar while dozens of aspiring young men and women train below it — literally looking up at him. 

"It's awesome to hear that maybe I gave them a spark of inspiration or that they're really entertained by what I did in my performance." 

Leaving UFC for Bellator

MacDonald made his name fighting for the most well known company in sport — the UFC. But after putting together an impressive record of 18 wins and only four losses, in 2016 he decided to leave in favour of a rival company, Bellator. 

"I wasn't super happy with the amount of money I was making [fighting for UFC], so I wanted to see what else was out there," MacDonald says. 

His decision to switch companies coincided with the birth of his daughter. He says becoming a father shifted his priorities.

Rory MacDonald said he fights to provide for his family, wife Olivia, daughter Maia and a soon-to-born son. (Submitted by Rory MacDonald)

"I have another motivation. To put food on the table. To provide for her. That's a big thing," MacDonald says.

"I have something outside of fighting now. Before my life was all fighting, now I have my family." 

And that family is growing — he and his wife are expecting a baby boy this year. 

Fighting Jon Fitch 

On Saturday, April 27, MacDonald will fight Jon Fitch in the main event of Bellator 220 in San Jose, Calif. 

The fight not only puts his title on the line, but it also represents the first round of a new type of tournament competition format being used by Bellator, called the Grand Prix. 

MacDonald says this will be the first time in his career he will take part in something where multiple contenders are eyeing his title at the same time. 

Doug sat down with Rory MacDonald for a chat ahead of his fight against Jon Fitch:

For years, Rory MacDonald trained in the shadow of greats like Georges St-Pierre. Now, at 29, MacDonald is one of the greats himself.  2:25

"It doesn't really stress me out that I could be facing all these different guys, I just really focus on the guy ahead of me." 

Fitch, 41, is an experienced fighter who has 31 wins as a professional. 

"He is older, but obviously he's still at the top. He's on a five-fight win streak," MacDonald says.

"I can't overlook his age, I have to just show up and fight hard and make sure I put this guy away."

About the Author

Douglas Gelevan, a national award-winning sports journalist, has been a member of the CBC team since 2010. He is currently the sports journalist for CBC News Montreal.


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