Rory MacDonald is at the rear end of the UFC’s top-10 welterweights. Yet, now that he has a scheduled rematch with recent UFC  interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit in March at UFC 158, his presence could resonate in a significant manner within the division in 2013.

MacDonald has made a slow climb through the UFC ranks. He’s a highly-touted teammate of Georges St-Pierre from the Canadian Tristar Gym who seems to be fulfilling the prophecy that one day he will follow in the footsteps of GSP in becoming a champion. That’s a bridge that will have to be crossed when the time comes, but after his most recent (and lopsided) win against fading former champion B.J. Penn, the anticipation of that time approaching has heightened.

At only 23, MacDonald has plenty of years ahead of him in the sport, so there is no need for urgency in placing him on a list of contenders for the belt. Also, more than a few factors have kept him in a state of incubation.

First, and most notable, among these factors is MacDonald’s relationship with the current champion, St-Pierre, and a well-documented agreement between the two not to fight each other. (Not that the agreement can’t change later.) Second, enough attention has been focused on the current crop of top welterweights—ones with longer tenures inside the UFC and lengthier arguments for a title shot than what MacDonald boasts. Last, MacDonald needs more time to grow on the fans, and it will take some time to groom his personality for that.

MacDonald will get his chance to join the top 10 and be part of serious title discussion in the division with his upcoming fight against Condit, who is as big a name as any in the welterweight world. A win there is something that the UFC could theoretically use to promote MacDonald to a title shot, if it so wanted; however, that doesn’t sound realistic.

The more likely scenario is that MacDonald would still have to wait his turn in line behind Johny Hendricks, if the former Oklahoma wrestler can best Jake Ellenberger on the same card. That basically means that for MacDonald to earn a title shot, he’d have to win versus Condit and in an additional fight to fill the time while Hendricks lines up to meet the winner of the UFC 158 championship tilt between St. Pierre and Nick Diaz. Shooting for Condit is as high as MacDonald can aim right now, and if he were to win, he’d only have to hold his place by knocking off a fellow contender. That could be someone like Jon Fitch or even Ellenberger (if he topples Hendricks). Anyone in the top five would do, really.

Diaz, coming off a loss to Condit, will be returning from a suspension to a title shot on the same card where MacDonald meets the former interim champion. It’s a fight that the champ, GSP, wanted, and it is also a money fight made from the standpoint of a calculated business decision. Diaz didn’t necessarily earn the opportunity in the traditional sense this time around, but the reasons for his selection highlight areas outside of fighting that “Ares” will need to improve upon if he wants to become the full package. The reason why Diaz is getting the shot is due to his popularity, and that kind of positive provocativeness is something that MacDonald has time to fine tune as he continues his move further up the ladder.

Knowledgeable MMA fans understand that MacDonald is capable of becoming a championship contender, but does his personality stoke enough interest for them to rally behind him? Decisions about who not to fight can change with the passing of time, but who the fans want to see fight can sway any part of the equation, even something as seemingly strong as an alliance between teammates. The UFC isn’t in the business of stonewalling fighters, but the promotion will choose a Nick Diaz over a Johny Hendricks (who most fans consider more deserving) any day. MacDonald’s face time after his win over Penn at UFC on FOX 5 was met with lukewarm reception from the MMA audience, and that won’t have him jumping in front of any other possible candidates in the near future.

However, MacDonald’s fight with Penn is one that moved the young Canadian fighter to a meeting with the former UFC welterweight interim champ. These are the steps any young up-and-comer must take in order to become established as a contender. To his credit, MacDonald called out Condit. He aimed high and his wish was granted.

However, it is puzzling that he would make such a request based on the premise that he solely wants to avenge a loss to Condit from 2010. A win would put him one or two moves away from the champ GSP, and why would he go that far just to pump the brakes?

Condit missed having his head coach Greg Jackson in his corner at the UFC 154 title fight with St-Pierre, as did the champion. It is a messy situation for fighters that train with the same camps to face one another, and MacDonald’s rise will bring forth those uncomfortable situations yet again. The worst-case scenario would be a repeat of the situation that arose between teammates Rashad Evans and Jon Jones when they were contending for the UFC’s light heavyweight crown. Much like Evans and Jones, one thing that goes without saying in the case of GSP and MacDonald is that since MacDonald has been so close with the champion, he has some of the best insider knowledge on how to take him out.

Condit and GSP, both of whom trained at Jackson’s MMA, showed that the situation can be handled as a business decision, and this could be an understanding that GSP and MacDonald eventually come to as well. However, MacDonald has a great home with Tristar, and a potential meeting with GSP could spark a switch in camps or a move in weight to avoid the possibility altogether, either of which would understandably be tough career choices. But all of these options further MacDonald’s career, which is his ultimate goal. MacDonald must weigh his friendship with St-Pierre against what is best for his own future.

MacDonald could one day have a meeting in the Octagon with his friend and teammate, and right now is the time where he builds his case. Only then, after he has established his spot at the front of the line and developed a marketable image that draws fans, will he and St-Pierre finally have to confront the elephant in the room.

Photo: Rory MacDonald (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.