By Kelsey Mowatt; photo courtesy Team Toshido
For several years now, mentioning the city of Kelowna to long time Canadian MMA observers would often prompt a discussion about Rory MacDonald and the renowned Team Toshido. After MacDonald began fighting throughout Western Canada in 2005, word spread quickly about a 16 year-old-fighter who would go on to win ten straight bouts, lay claim to the King of the Cage lightweight championship, and sign with the UFC at the young age of 20. Kelowna was the proud home to one of the sport’s fastest rising prospects.
But as often is the case in life sometimes a change of scenery becomes a necessity, and after traveling across the country for several training stints with world class competitors in Montreal, Quebec, MacDonald knew it was time to move.
“Yeah I live here now,” MacDonald told FCF. “It’s been really good for me; I feel like I’ve grown substantially since I moved here in August. It was the best thing for me to do.”
“Fighting is everything in my life; if I was perfectly set up in Kelowna as far as training I wouldn’t have left,” MacDonald added. “Things just weren’t working out as far as training partners and stuff. There was no one to train with. I’d go and show up by myself and you just can’t do that at this level when you’re trying to beat top ten guys. So I made the move and things are great. I always have someone to spar with, I’m learning new things and there’s going to be a big difference for my next fight.”
For most, moving away from home, from your friends and family, is an extremely hard transition to make, and in MacDonald’s case it was no different.
“It was really tough,” said the 21 year-old MacDonald, who became the KOTC Canadian and World Champion through the tutelage of Toshido’s head instructor David Lea. “It was really tough leaving Dave; that was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’m still really young, and since I was 14 Dave was the guy looking out for me, teaching me things and showing me how MMA works...I’ll always value that; I’ll always have Dave by my side.”
Not only is Montreal home to several notable Canadian fighters like Denis Kang, Patrick Cote, and UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, the historic city’s extensive MMA resources continue to attract other top ranked fighters.
“I have like five gyms I go to,” said MacDonald, when asked about a training regiment which includes time at the famous Tri Star Gym. “Every place, every day, every morning and every night, it’s a new place. It’s really cool; I get to learn from a lot of really good people and it keeps me excited.”
The move to Montreal also came at an important time in MacDonald’s career. After submitting Mike Guymon in the first round at MacDonald’s UFC debut last January, the rising fighter tasted defeat for the first time in June, when he was stopped by former WEC champ Carlos Condit. It was a loss which no doubt contributed to MacDonald’s recent relocation.
Now, reports have been circulating that the Canadian could face another accomplished fighter in Nate Diaz, when the UFC heads to Toronto’s Rogers Centre on April 30th.
“I’ve always wanted to fight Nate since I got in the UFC,” said MacDonald when asked if would be interested in fighting Diaz. “So it’s going to be interesting if it works out.”
After moving up from the lightweight division to compete at 170lbs., Diaz (13-6) earned stoppage wins over Rory Markham and Marcus Davis, before losing by unanimous decision to Dong Hyun Kim on New Year’s Day.
“I think he’s going to be weaker than a lot of the guys at 170,” said MacDonald when asked to assess Diaz’s move to welterweight. “He’s just smaller; that’s just the way it is. He’s definitely got the technical ability to hang, and although he loses a lot of his edge on the strength side of things, that doesn’t mean he can’t win fights with his skills.”