With just one UFC fight under his belt, 20-year-old Canadian Rory (The Water Boy) MacDonald find himself on the main card, in his home province, before a sellout crowd, against former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit.
How’s that for pressure?
No problem, according to MacDonald (10-0), who is relishing Saturday’s challenge as the UFC makes its first foray into Vancouver.
At six foot two, Condit is a tall, experienced welterweight who has won 24 of his 29 fights. The 26-year-old made his pro debut back in September 2002, when MacDonald was 13.
But the kid from Kelowna likes the matchup.
“We took the fight right away,” MacDonald said. “I knew it would be a good matchup for me. I wasn’t expecting it but it was a nice surprise.”
“There’s no worries there,” he added. “I know where I’m at skill-wise and experience(-wise). I feel like this is the right time in my career to fight a guy like this.”
Veteran middleweight David (The Crow) Loiseau, who is also on the GM Place card, has trained with MacDonald and says he has every reason to be confident.
“I see the future of this sport in Rory MacDonald,” Loiseau said.
MacDonald spent time at the beginning of camp in Montreal with Loiseau and UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, among others.
“He’s amazing,” said St-Pierre. “He’s the new big thing, I’m pretty sure. Watch that name. He’s going to go far.”
MacDonald is part of a new generation of fighter that grew up training in all aspects of mixed martial arts. He started at 14 and 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 the youngster.
He won the King of the Cage Canadian lightweight title at 18 — in his sixth fight — and the King of the Cage world 155-pound title in his next outing a year later.
Thanks to a growth spurt, MacDonald then moved up to welterweight and continues to fight at 170 pounds.
Condit has the skills to severely test MacDonald. With 10 TKO wins, 13 submissions and one decision to his credit, the American is well-versed in all areas of the game.
“But I think anywhere he takes the fight, he’s going to be in danger,” said the six-foot MacDonald. “He’s not going to get any rest from me anywhere.”
The main event at GM Place features former light-heavyweight champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell against former middleweight title-holder Rich Franklin.
The other Canadian on the card, which set the record for fastest UFC sellout, is Toronto welterweight Claude Patrick.
MacDonald says he won’t let the hype of fight week bother him. But there may be a tingle as he walks into an arena he used to visit as a kid to watch the Canucks play.
“It’s been a dream of mine to be down on the main stage (there) performing myself,” he said. “So now that I have an opportunity to do that, I’m pretty excited.”
A former centre, he once hoped it might be as a hockey player.
“I did all right but it wasn’t my calling,” he said.
Fighting was, however, and he quit hockey at 14 to start training.
MacDonald needed just four minutes 27 seconds to dispatch veteran Mike (The Joker) Guymon in his UFC debut in January, finishing off the 35-year-old in four minutes 27 seconds.
While happy with the win, MacDonald was not enthralled by his performance. The young Canadian was wobbled briefly by a right hand but kept his cool and worked his way into position for the arm submission.
“I was a little bit upset by some of my technique — some of the mistakes I was making,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I showed my best, but it’s because of the pressure I put on myself to try to perform. It was my first-time jitters, but I got over it and now I’ll be able to do my best in there.”
MacDonald says little has changed since his Octagon debut. He returned to training “and kept my head on straight.”
Loiseau says MacDonald has done just that.
“Nice guy, respectful, humble, no swollen head in this case,” he said.
MacDonald, who turns 21 next month, didn’t even treat himself with his first UFC paycheque.
“I didn’t really make very much money, just enough to keep training.”
But he’s not complaining.
“It’s my job and I take it very, very serious,” he said of fighting, “but I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life. There’s nothing more I could ask for.”
MacDonald’s nickname comes from the Adam Sandler comedy of the same name. Like Sandler, MacDonald turns it on when he gets hit.
NOTES— MacDonald says his mother and stepfather will be at the fight but his dad couldn’t get a ticket and will have to take in the pay-per-view. “He’ll be watching, for sure.” … MacDonald will be cornered by coach David Lea and fellow Team Toshido fighters Clay Davidson and Mike Adams. .. A music buff, MacDonald plans to make his entrance to Nas’ “I Know I Can.” He didn’t get a chance to come out to music last time because of time restraints on the televised show. He had chosen Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” .. Condit’s experience doesn’t extend to handling sheet metal. He had to pull out of the UFC 108 co-main event with Paul (Semtex) Daley after cutting his hand moving junk in his garage.