Written by: Shawn Dallas Hall MMA Fight Radio Co- Host, Beat Writer and Certified MMA Judge
On Saturday the 18th of June we get the chance to see one of the best match-ups in Welterweight History, when #1 Rory “Red King” MacDonald (18-3) heads into the biggest fight of his life against the streaking and freakishly talented #2 Stephan “Wonderboy” Thompson (12-1). For us die-hards we all expected to see this match-up but assumed it would be when one of these two was wearing UFC gold.
As exciting and interesting as it would be with a belt on the line and all the pageantry that goes along with it, the circumstances and landscape changing possibilities surrounding this fight may just make it even more interesting. Rory, a 12 fight UFC vet, former title challenger, and only 26yrs old, has decided to decline the new contract offered by the UFC and fight out his last fight and test free agency. With several other big name aging fighters having received very big contracts for their services, Rory, with a good performance, win or loss is poised to field some large front loaded lucrative deals from bidders like; Bellator, OneFC, and WSOF (to name a few). So, as long as Rory can avoid becoming another edit in Wonderboys’ highlight reel, he is poised to be the next top 10 guy to force the UFC to open the checkbook. But, there’s more to this story.
Let’s examine the options; Rory wins in dominate fashion KO, Sub, TKO, or 50-45 landslide. The UFC then has very little options but to resign him for a much larger sum than previously offered with back-end money and guarantees. With the Canadian market dwindling after the retirement of GSP the UFC has desperately been trying to fill the void with Rory, Cote, Theodorou, etc. Rory being the #1 WW with wins over Current Title contender Tyron Woodley and the streaking Damian Maia as well as coming off the fight of 2015 with the current champ the UFC has to see Rory as irreplaceable and in turn pay him as such. If Rory losses no matter the method things could change in a hurry.
Rumblings say Scott Coker (Bellator CEO) will talk Viacom into opening their pocketbooks like never before. Spike would love a boost in the Canadian market which Rory would most certainly bring and a McDonald vs Koreshkov fight would be big business for Spike. This makes the possibility of a top 5 WW contender jumping ship very likely.
That is unless UFC again opens the checkbook. The question is; are the UFC execs willing to take that risk? Since Rory has lost to current WW titleholder twice and in this exercise lost to the next title challenger is it worth paying champions money to someone who will need at least 2 or 3 wins before having another opportunity at being the next Canadian champ? Especially when you try and calculate the damage Rory has taken over his last few fights. Do they evaluate him having a shorter cage life than most 26yr olds?
Any way around it the UFC has interest in resigning him but will they value him as much as Bellator does and will they be willing to match what I’m expecting to be a very hefty Bellator offer with the option of opening a new revenue source in sponsorships? Either way Rory seems to come out ahead and the UFC will be left with a very difficult decision on Rory. Whatever happens on Saturday night I will be watching this story closely as it will sure to have a lasting impact on mma and other fighters decisions to test free agency.