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Report: Rory MacDonald in talks to leave the UFC as discussions with other promotions begin

Bellator and ONE are keen on MMA’s most valuable free agent.

Rory MacDonald (left) pictured during his welterweight title bout against Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 last July.
Rory MacDonald (left) pictured during his welterweight title bout against Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 last July.
Image: John Locher

THE UFC COULD soon lose one of its most popular fighters amid reports that Rory MacDonald has entered negotiations with a pair of rival MMA promotions.

MacDonald (18-4), a Canadian welterweight who was signed by the UFC as an undefeated 20-year-old in 2010, is currently a free agent.

The last fight on MacDonald’s UFC contract was his unanimous-decision defeat to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson last month in a number one contender bout for a shot at the 170lbs title.

It was the 26-year-old’s first outing since he came desperately close to becoming the UFC’s welterweight champion in July 2015, before being stopped in the fifth and final round by reigning title-holder Robbie Lawler.

In an interview with Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com back in March, MacDonald revealed that talks to renew his deal with the UFC had reached an impasse.

“I want to make the most money I can. I want to get paid for what I bring to the table,” said MacDonald, who earned a disclosed sum of $59,000 for his championship bout against Lawler, which was supplemented by a $50,000 ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot to get to the top, to the world title. I really sacrificed, and I took a lot of chances. I did a lot of favours, I felt like, for the UFC and I don’t think it got returned. So now it’s all about making money, and whoever wants to pay me the most is where I’ll go.”

It appears that the race to secure MacDonald’s signature is now well and truly hotting up. Yesterday, Chamatkar Sandhu reported that Bellator, the UFC’s closest competitor, have already entered dialogue with the Tristar product.

“Bellator president Scott Coker told me they have begun a line of communication with Rory MacDonald in the hopes of signing the free agent,” tweeted Sandhu, a reporter for MMAjunkie, FloCombat and Fighters Only.

ONE Championship — the largest promotion in Asia, which has grown significantly in recent years and this week announced an eight-figure investment from Temasek Holdings — are also reportedly in talks with MacDonald.

According to an article by Jim Edwards which was published this afternoon via FloCombat, ONE have “established a line of communication with the former UFC welterweight title contender”.

Should MacDonald make the move to ONE, he’s likely to be catapulted into a bout against their reigning 170lbs title-holder and undefeated former Bellator champion Ben Askren, a contest which would generate enormous global interest from the MMA community.

The UFC will be keen to retain the services of an athlete of MacDonald’s calibre and popularity, but they’ve already shown that they’re prepared to allow championship-level fighters to depart, as evidenced by former lightweight champion Benson Henderson’s move to Bellator.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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