(This story appears in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)
UFC welterweight contender Rory MacDonald spent much of the past few weeks insisting he would not and could not fight friend and teammate Georges St-Pierre.
Not even for the UFC welterweight title St-Pierre has held for the last five years.
Before MacDonald’s lackluster unanimous decision win against Jake Ellenberger (29-7 MMA, 8-3 UFC) at UFC on FOX 8 in Seattle, UFC President Dana White said he didn’t believe it.
After the plodding performance by MacDonald (15-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC), who used a jab and a front kick and little else to win the fight on all three judges’ scorecards, it seemed like persuading MacDonald to accept a UFC title shot was the least of White’s concerns.
“I don’t think he moves down the ladder,” White said of MacDonald after the event. “But do you think anybody’s screaming to see him fight again?”
White had a point. With the win, MacDonald, 24, who’s ranked No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA welterweight rankings, found himself in a sort of no-man’s land.
Regardless of whether he’d really turn down a title shot against a teammate, the unimpressive performance against Ellenberger, who was ranked No. 3 entering the fight, sucked the momentum out of MacDonald’s climb up the ranks.
Now the question is not so much whether he’d fight St-Pierre but whether anyone would care to see it.
At the same time, a victory against a higher-ranked opponent left MacDonald at or near the top of the list of welterweight contenders in the UFC.
If he takes another fight while he waits for St-Pierre to defend his title against No. 2 Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November, it seems like the best he can do is erase the memory of a boring win with an exciting one. Even that would likely land him right back in the same position, assuming St-Pierre retains his title.
MacDonald doesn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with his latest victory.
After the fight, he told news reporters he had done exactly what he was supposed to do.
“I was focused on the task at hand, and I was waiting for the knockout to come,” MacDonald said.
The problem is, fans typically aren’t all that excited about paying to watch a fighter wait. MacDonald might have left KeyArena victorious, but he also left to the unmistakable sound of boos.
If MacDonald wants to be a UFC champion in the near future, something has to give. St-Pierre has to lose his title, retire or simply move on from the welterweight division. Or MacDonald has to rethink whether his friendship with St-Pierre is worth more to him than a shot at a UFC championship.
Whatever he decides, White said, he won’t help his cause fighting the way he did against Ellenberger.
“You don’t want to put on a bunch of performances like that,” White said. “It’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for him; it’s not good for us; it’s not good for the sport.”
For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.