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London calling: MacDonald to face fellow UFC veteran Daley in Bellator debut

The welterweights will clash in the main event at Bellator 179 at the SSE Wembley Arena.

UFC 189 Mixed Martial Arts Rory MacDonald (right) fought Robbie Lawler in a memorable UFC welterweight title bout in July 2015. Source: John Locher

RORY MACDONALD’S FIRST fight for Bellator will headline the California-based mixed martial arts organisation’s return to London later this year.

It was announced today at a press conference in the English capital that MacDonald (18-4) will take on Paul Daley (39-14-2) in a welterweight main event at Bellator 179 at the SSE Wembley Arena on Friday, 19 May.

After his deal with the UFC expired last year, MacDonald opted to resume his MMA career elsewhere by accepting a contract offer from Bellator, the UFC’s main rival. The capture of the 27-year-old was arguably the biggest coup in Bellator’s history.

The 27-year-old Canadian went 9-4 under the UFC banner, picking up wins over the likes of Nate Diaz, BJ Penn, Demian Maia and current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

However, MacDonald’s value to the UFC took a hit as a result of back-to-back losses in his final two appearances in the octagon. After coming up short in an epic title bout against Robbie Lawler at UFC 189, the Tristar Gym product was comprehensively defeated over five rounds by Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson last June.

In the aftermath of a spectacular first-round knockout win against Brennan Ward last month, Daley called MacDonald out. The veteran striker had been linked to a bout against fellow Englishman Michael Page, but instead he’ll welcome MacDonald to his new home.

Bellator 134 MMA Paul Daley is a veteran of 55 professional bouts. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Daley has been fighting professionally for 14 years. The 33-year-old was signed by the UFC in 2009 and swiftly made a big impression by scoring first-round stoppages of Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett, which earned him a meeting with Josh Koscheck in a welterweight title eliminator.

But Daley was cut by the UFC following a unanimous-decision loss for hitting Koscheck after the bell. Since then he has competed for a variety of organisations, including Strikeforce, Cage Warriors, BAMMA and Bellator.

The meeting of Daley and MacDonald will go down as one of the most high-profile Bellator bouts ever to take place. The organisation will be in Belfast a week on Friday for Bellator 173, which will be headlined by a light-heavyweight bout between Dublin’s Chris Fields and former champion Liam McGeary.

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