Rory MacDonald has confirmed that he will fight on June 14th against Neiman Gracie in the second round of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix.
The reigning welterweight champion advanced in the eight-man tournament through a majority draw with Jon Fitch this past Saturday at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. Because MacDonald would retain his title in a draw, it allowed him to advance with the judges scoring the fight 48-46 for Fitch and the other two scoring it 47-47.
In his post-fight interview with John McCarthy, MacDonald explained his hesitancy to pull the trigger in his fights and questioned if his drive to hurt people is still there. It ended the night in doubt regarding MacDonald’s status for the tournament and returning so quickly after delivering such a statement.
On Tuesday, Bellator issued a press release with comments from MacDonald announcing he would be fighting Gracie at Madison Square Garden at Bellator 222.
I want to take the time to thank everybody who had the chance to see my fight last weekend and share that candid moment I had in the Bellator cage with John McCarthy.
I felt an internal struggle during the fight I never experienced before. I have always enjoyed my time in the cage by expressing my techniques in full out combat against another top-level fighter, but this time I wasn’t enjoying it. It felt more like a job than the satisfaction I am used to feeling by being dominant and applying what I have practiced to defeat someone.
Even during my dominant moments, I felt I was completing a task and these feelings were a bit confusing to me because it’s new. I used to fight with anger I held within myself from pain I had experienced in my past. To be honest, I believe this comes from my heart changing as I’m walking a new life as a Christian. The Lord has given me peace and freedom from the pain that haunted me in my heart from my younger years. I would only satisfy myself for a short period of time from winning fights until the feeling would resonate in me again. So, now I don’t feel the same emotions I have in the past while competing.
I still and will always have a passion for martial arts and do not believe, as a Christian, that it’s wrong for myself to compete in a professional sport that is violent. In fact, I’m happy to testify about being a Christian on this platform I’ve been given.
To be clear, I am not retiring from my professional MMA career, I’ve always been true and honest in the sport and I spoke from the heart.
As for my career at the moment. I am going to move forward in this tournament and compete boldly against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14.
Thank you for your support and all the kind messages I’ve received after this sentimental moment I had for all to see after 14 years of being in this sport.
MacDonald will defend his title in the semi-final fight with Neiman Gracie. On the other side of the bracket, Douglas Lima will fight Michael Page on Saturday, May 11th in the other semi-final fight with the finals expected to take place later this year.
Below is the updated card for Bellator 222 on Friday, June 14th at Madison Square Garden:
*Chael Sonnen vs. Lyoto Machida – Light Heavyweight
*Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie for the Welterweight title in the semi-finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix
*Darrion Caldwell vs. Kyoji Horiguchi for the Bellator bantamweight title
*Dillon Danis vs. Max Humphrey – 175-pound catchweight
*Heather Hardy vs. TBA – Flyweight
*Brandon Polcare vs. Brandon Medina – Flyweight