SEATTLE – Following a dominating decision win over MMA legend B.J. Penn, 23-year-old prospect Rory MacDonald (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) took to the microphone and made it clear his next goal is a rematch with the one man to ever beat him: Carlos Condit.
At Saturday night's post-UFC on FOX 5 press conference, MacDonald reiterated his stance.
After being up two rounds to none in that June 2010 contest, Condit scored a come-from-behind TKO win with just seven seconds left in the final frame. MacDonald admitted the sting of that moment still burns inside.
"I was just laying there getting beaten on," MacDonald remembered. "My face looked like I was the guy from 'The Goonies' after. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed about my performance and how I held myself.
"It did a lot of damage, and I don't think I've been the same person since. I want to get that back."
In fairness, MacDonald hasn't seemed the same fighter since that night. He's seemed better. After manhandling Nate Diaz at UFC 129, MacDonald made it look easy in first-round wins over Mike Pyle and Che Mills. That earned him a fight with Penn, a former two-division champion destined for the UFC Hall of Fame.
MacDonald, who made his professional debut at just 16 years old, admitted that Penn was once his idol, but he insists any feelings of awe were well behind him when he entered the cage on Saturday night.
"B.J. was one of my heroes growing up – when I was a teenager growing up in the sport," MacDonald said. "But I can't carry that mindset into a fight with somebody, if you know what I mean. When I look across the octagon against somebody, it's just another body to me. Legend or not, I'm going in there to hurt him. That was the mindset I was carrying into this."
And he did hurt Penn. MacDonald was both aggressive and precise with a sharp jab and kicks to all levels. The durable Penn was broken as early as the second round, and the legendary fighter doubled over in pain as he shifted into survival mode.
If there was any criticism at all of MacDonald's performance, it may have been that he seemed to let off the gas in the third frame and was willing to simply work into a clinch rather than go for the kill. Some observers thought it may have been a sign of respect for the beaten champion, but MacDonald said he was simply looking to ensure he didn't make a silly mistake with the fight clearly in the bag.
"I was (looking for the finish)," MacDonald said. "It's just that I was being precise about it. I was picking my shots and being calm about the situation. B.J. is a dangerous guy, so it would be kind of a mistake if I just jumped on him with everything I had and then got clipped with a shot.
"I was picking my shots, being technical. If the knockout came, it came, but it didn't."
MacDonald claimed a clear decision win over Penn and formally announced his position as a top contender at 170 pounds. As a training partner of welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald has long insisted he won't ever face "Rush," and though on Saturday night he did briefly seem to allow for at least the potential of that fight, he quickly shot it down.
"I don't know; I'm not there yet," MacDonald said when asked about a potential fight with "GSP." "I'll cross that bridge when I get there, but I don't feel that I need to fight Georges. I don't think it's going to happen. It won't happen. Me and him are friends.
"He's done a lot for me, and I'm very grateful for it. I'm not going to stab him in the back, and I don't want to wreck my opportunity training at Tri-star. They've done a lot of things for me."
And so MacDonald turns his sights to a familiar foe, the lone man to defeat him in his professional career. Condit fought and lost to St-Pierre this past month, so the timing would likely work, but it's unknown when the "Natural Born Killer" is hoping to fight again.
What's clear is that with a resounding win over an MMA legend, MacDonald is now free to fight pretty much anybody in the division he chooses. The rest of the welterweight division might just prefer he go back to whatever he was before the loss.
"We'll see what happens," MacDonald said. "There's lots of fight for me right now."