A former Bellator champion, retired Canadian welterweight Rory (Red King) MacDonald is now headed to the UFC Hall of Fame.
The mixed martial arts promotion says the bloody UFC 189 battle in July 2015 between MacDonald and then-welterweight title-holder (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame’s “Fight Wing” this summer as part of the class of 2023.
Lawler won by fifth-round TKO in a brutal bout that left both fighters looking like they had been in a car crash.
MacDonald’s face was a crimson mask under a shaved mohawk.
His nose pointed in the wrong direction and his torso spattered with blood turned his white trunks a shade of rosé when the slugfest was stopped one minute into the final round after the Montreal-based fighter took one shot too many to his battered beak.
“I keep fighting. If people get in my face, I’m going to knock you out,” Lawler said defiantly after the bout.
The win came at a cost. Lawler’s lip looked like someone had taken a box-cutter to it.
UFC president Dana White called it “one of the most exciting fights in UFC history.”
“This was an absolute war and a complete display of heart, grit, determination, and the will to win from both athletes,” he said in a statement Saturday night announcing the Hall of Fame news.
All three judges gave MacDonald the first, third and fourth rounds with Lawler getting the second. MacDonald landed 86 significant strikes in the fight, compared to 70 for Lawler, according to UFC Stats.
The co-main event — (The Notorious) Conor McGregor stopped Chad (Money) Mendes to win the interim featherweight championship in the marquee bout that night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas — was a rematch of the MacDonald-Lawler non-title fight at UFC 167 in November 2013.
Lawler also won that night, via split decision.
The 25-year-old MacDonald won his next three fights and was the No. 2 contender at 170 pounds entering the rematch, sporting an 18-2-0 record.
The 33-year-old Lawler, an 18-year pro with a record of 25-10-0 with one no-contest, was making the first defence of the 170-pound title he had taken off Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks seven months earlier via a split decision at UFC 181.
After a tentative first round in the rematch that saw MacDonald score with several front kicks to the champion’s stomach, Lawler caught MacDonald repeatedly with precise strikes to the face in the second, badly damaging MacDonald’s nose and opening up his face.
“You’re getting overly excited. There’s three more rounds,” coach Firas Zahabi told MacDonald between rounds. “You’ve got to stick and move, stick and move, stick and move. That’s what’s working.”
Lawler controlled the third round as well before MacDonald staggered him with a head kick in the final minute, battering him against the cage with punches, elbows and knees until the round ended.
“Get your composure back. You have to put pressure on this guy,” Lawler was told between rounds in his corner.
“You’re figuring him out,” Zahabi told MacDonald as the cutman tried to make repairs on his fighter. “I want you to circle, breathe and finish him.”
MacDonald stayed aggressive in the fourth and hammered Lawler around the cage, only to see the champion regain his composure midway through the round and land several big shots of his own. Lawler kept coming forward, ignoring the punches coming his way.
The bloodied fighters stayed at the centre of the ring after the round ended, staring defiantly at each other.
“Don’t give him space — It’s time to put him away, Robbie. He’s busted up, You’re the lion, you’re the champ. Five minutes left,” Lawler’s corner told him.
“Five minutes and you win,” Zahabi told MacDonald, whose face was dripping blood.
The fighters touched gloves and went back at it for the final round. But the end came a minute later after a Lawler left to MacDonald’s disfigured face. The Canadian felt his nose and went down.
“That was the cumulation of a beatdown. That wasn’t one punch, that was years of fighting right there coming to fruition. I’m the champ, I’m here to stay,” said Lawler
Lawyer defended his title against Carlos (The Natural Born Killer) Condit at UFC 195 in January 2016 before losing it to Tyrone (The Chosen One) Woodley at UFC 201 in July.
Now 41, Lawler (29-16-0 with one no contest) is 2-5-0 since losing his title and has lost five of his last six fights — stopped most recently by Bryan (Bam Bam) Barberena at UFC 276 last July.
MacDonald lost his next outing to Stephen (Wonderboy) Thompson in June 2016 in Ottawa before leaving the UFC. He defeated Douglas (The Phenom) Lima to win the Bellator welterweight title in January 2018, only to lose it in an October 2019 rematch.
MacDonald then moved to the Professional Fighters League, going 2-4-0 before retiring in 2022 with a 23-10-1 record at the age of 33. He lost four of his last five fights
Macdonald, a born-again Christian, had to resolve faith and fighting as his career continued. After earning a majority draw with veteran Jon Fitch in April 2019 Bellator action, he wondered in his post-fight interview if he still had “that same drive to hurt people any more.”
He later found his answer,
“Instead of a legacy as a fighter, I want to leave a mark in the sport about the good news of Jesus Christ,” said MacDonald.
Born in Quesnel, B.C., MacDonald joined the UFC in 2009 as a 20-year-old with a 9-0-0 record.
He was 14 when he started training with David Lea in Kelowna, B.C.
MacDonald had his first pro fight at 16, with his parents having to give their approval to do so. Even then, only a few athletic commissions would sanction him to fight.
He won the King of the Cage Canadian lightweight title at 18 — in his sixth bout — and defeated Clay French in his next outing a year later to win the King of the Cage world 155-pound title.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press