VIEWPOINT: MMA’S LATEST VILLAIN - Rory Macdonald
I find it strange that he's become a villain, cuz I don't think he has the personality to become one. At least not like the conventional archetypal villains like Chael or Koscheck. Instead he personifies himself as someone who's misunderstood and borderline.
UFC on Fox 5 provided viewers with a smorgasbord of MMA goodness on Saturday, with plenty of fodder for water cooler and forum discussion in the coming days.
There was the all-around brilliance of Benson Henderson, who generated as much buzz for his alleged toothpick wizardry as he did for his stifling dominance of Nate Diaz. There was the continued progression of promising light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson, who dismissed former 205-pound champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the co-main event and proclaimed himself to be the division’s No. 1 contender shortly thereafter. There was the proliferation of 10-8 rounds, raising further questions as to what truly constitutes overwhelming dominance. Finally, there was a little bit of promotional gamesmanship, as Bellator Fighting Championships had the audacity to buy a commercial spot for its upcoming season on Spike TV during the Fox broadcast.
Through it all, Rory MacDonald remained the compelling figure of the evening.
Somewhere along the line, between the awkward “Road to the Octagon” segments, the unnerving sound bites and the dissect-and-taunt act against a faded legend, MacDonald became the most unlikeable character in the UFC on Fox 5 ensemble.
Before you unload on me for making a mountain out of a molehill, remember that unlikeable is a relative term. By most accounts, MacDonald is a quiet, unassuming kid who dropped everything to train at the Tristar Gym in Montreal and is now making the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He does not have a criminal record. He is not a dirty fighter. He seems to want to do things the right way. For all I know, MacDonald could be the most decorated human being this side of Tim Tebow.
Yet, behind my unbiased-member-of-the-media facade, I found it exceedingly easy to root against MacDonald, even against an opponent as polarizing as B.J. Penn. Clearly I was not alone in this endeavor, as it appeared that the majority of those in attendance at Seattle’s Key Arena shared my sentiments. The dislike for MacDonald was about more than mere national pride; remember, Tristar Gym teammate and fellow Canadian Georges St. Pierre is among the most popular fighters and biggest pay-per-view draws in the sport today.
It was not just a groundswell of support for Penn, either. The Hawaiian is undoubtedly one of the sport’s all-time greats, but he can be plenty abrasive when he wants to be. No, this was more about MacDonald than it was about anyone -- or anything -- else.
File Photo: Sherdog.com
Condit taught “Ares” a lesson.
The 23-year-old dresses like a Bond villain, sounds like Hannibal Lecter’s apprentice and fights like the heir apparent to St. Pierre’s welterweight throne. He does not ooze charisma and charm, quite the opposite in fact, but his affinity for the Octagon means he is going to be around for quite some time, like it or not.
“I’d like people to think that I’m a good person, that I’m pretty easy to talk to,” MacDonald said during an interview on the UFC on Fox 5 “Road to the Octagon” show. “I’m quiet, obviously, until I get comfortable with people, but that’s just who I am. I think it’d just be nice if people accepted who people were, you know?”
Stardom does not really work that way. The average fan cannot relate to the fact that MacDonald and his good pal, “The Ultimate Fighter 16” finalist Mike Ricci, almost threw down over a pair of red pants. They do not understand why the precocious Canadian chose to taunt Penn when a finish appeared within reach. As the jeers rained down on him in the aftermath of his one-sided decision against “The Prodigy,” MacDonald did little to sway the popular opinion when he insisted on taking the microphone from UFC analyst Joe Rogan.
“There’s a guy that humiliated me a couple years ago and I want my revenge,” MacDonald said, as if recalling a high school bully from years gone by. “Carlos Condit -- I want a rematch. Accept my challenge. Let’s do it in March. I’m going to get my revenge.”
Cue the ominous music, some maniacal laughter from MacDonald and then fade to black. That is how the Hollywood version would go, anyway.
Two-and-a-half years ago, a 20-year-old MacDonald came within seven seconds of defeating Condit at UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Likely ahead two rounds to none on the judges’ scorecards, MacDonald had no answer for Condit’s furious final ground-and-pound salvo that forced a stoppage to the bout mere moments from its conclusion. To this day, backers of MacDonald claim that Condit was fortunate to emerge victorious. Even then, MacDonald knew that luck had nothing to do with it.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what was going on,” MacDonald said after the loss. “I thought [it was] the end of the round until they called the TKO, but it was a just stoppage. He was kicking my ass.”
So what happened between then and now? After beating a man who has struggled against all welterweights not named Matt Hughes in recent years, what makes MacDonald so sure that he deserves another shot at an opponent who gave St. Pierre his stiffest test in recent memory?
MacDonald is a better, more confident fighter than he was in 2010, and he is clearly coming into his own as a high-level contender in the division. Part of that growth process involves personality. While labeling someone a heel seems like it should be reserved for the sports entertainment set, it applies to the world of mixed martial arts. MacDonald seems to have fallen into this role by default, but it has its advantages.
On the basis of his talents alone, MacDonald will remain beloved in his home country. Acceptance could be hard to come by elsewhere, particularly from those who were turned off by his display of arrogance against Penn during the fight and his awkwardness after. Neither, of course, is a concern to MacDonald himself.
Regardless of how you perceive him, MacDonald is right where he needs to be. As MMA’s newest villain, he is simply too good to be ignored.
If Stephan is the American Psycho, surely Rory is the Canadian counterpart.
I personally think Rory has a great attitude, and I find his lack of interest in the media both hilarious and compelling. The kid is honest, and he's a monster. Rory is going to be around for a very long time, and will likely wear gold at 170, 185, or both.
He was villianized because he was fighting the beloved BJ Penn... if Rory were to dominate Josh Koscheck in the same fashion he would have been applauded for "bullying the bully"... fact.
I really do think it is a combination of his accent and the way he says things. Even my wife commented that he sounded like a dick when he said, 'Growing up I idolized Penn. As a man I am afraid of no one. Penn's biggest mistake was taking this fight.' He didn't say anything we hadn't heard from other fighters before, just the way he says it bugs people.
Oh well, maybe when he and GSP fight they will sell it as the Ying & Yang fight?
I know, I know, they will never fight, I can dream can't I?
I think it really boils down to the fact that Rory gives off an awkward vibe. That awkwardness will put a lot of people off whether its in the lead up to the fight or right after.
Likely fans will come around to like Rory but he has to cut the crap with the taunting, shuffling and all that disrespectful behaviour. He was an absolute beast in that fight and likely will be for quite some time. He should take a page out of GSP's books and eat some humble pie and his image will benefit greatly.
If anything this whole situation just shows how fickle "casual MMA fans are". A guy show some talent as an up-and-comer... people cheer him on. Then he actually achieves success and people vilify him. Or they like a fighter until they beat up fighters than the "casual fan" liked when he was a kid. Or the young fighter shows some confidence (which you need to succeed) and suddenly he's "too damn cocky".
I think all of this just shows how flaky some "fans" are.
I'd say it's the combination of being well-spoken, humble, and doing it for the challenge as opposed to doing it because you HAVE to feed your family.
Most of the fighters are thanking jesus and fighting to pay for their kids etc. So when you get guys like Rory & Richi who seem like spoiled brats in their early 20's it might be hard for a lot of people to relate?
It's easy to hate people that have it better than you do.
Richi knew in the show he should be better than his competition. And he was right. Does that make him cocky? Sort of. But for me I respect them. I think it takes balls to do it, and I respect it more when you don't HAVE to but WANT to fight.
Rory was booed all of one time. I can chalk that up to the location of the fight as well as his opponent being BJ Penn. Until it happens again, and again, and again, I'll not even entertain the idea that Rory is a 'villain' or that the people are turning on him.
The media is blowing an isolated incident out of proportion. As per usual.
This was my first UFC card I've been to, and it blew my mind how loud the boo's were. I couldn't even hear a word Rory said in the arena.
At first I thought it was more about the patriotism and loyalty to Penn, but after the taunting the 'Muricans wouldn't even let Rory say one word. He was definitely not getting ANY love, even after that performance. Although us Canadians were as loud as we could be.
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