Rory MacDonald made headlines this past weekend by questioning whether he has it in his heart anymore to fight professionally. But, one of his longtime coaches, Firas Zahabi, believes the Bellator champ will be back in the cage.
After MacDonald battled Jon Fitch to a draw in the headliner of Bellator 220, he turned heads with his post-fight comments. The Canadian star reported that due to his newfound and growing faith, he’s not sure if he has the “drive to hurt people” anymore.
So, since MacDonald is Bellator’s welterweight champ, and because he’s supposed to fight Neiman Gracie next in the promotion’s grand prix, the comments caused quite a stir. But, while speaking with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani since then, Zahabi had this to say about MacDonald’s future (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“A lot of fighters go through these kinds of things,” Zahabi said. “He’s not the first guy to see both sides of fighting – the good part, the darker part – and then kind of come to these realizations. So I wasn’t surprised. I’ve heard him talk about it publicly, I’ve seen the headlines. We have talked. I know him so well – I watched him grow up in my gym – so I see what’s going on with him. I see the direction that he’s taking and it’s up to him. It’s his decision, it’s his life, it’s his career.”
“I think the pendulum always swings the other way as well. He’s gonna feel that way now and then tomorrow he may get over it and then he might feel that way again. It’s normal to have mixed feelings. He’s still in a $1 million tournament. He still has fights booked. These are normal emotions, especially after a fight. You’re so full of emotions right after a fight like that. So I think he was just being honest but again, the pendulum might swing the other way. He might wake up today be like, ‘You know what, let’s do this. Let’s fight. Let’s continue.’ And I think that’s what’s going to happen.
“The kid’s a natural-born fighter, and I feel like he’s going to continue on his journey.”
It’s also worth noting that during the post-fight press conference, MacDonald said he intended to fight Gracie next, so Zahabi’s comments above are in keeping with that, at least for the short term. As the Tristar coach alluded to, when you consider what’s on the line in the grand prix, and that MacDonald’s just two wins away from winning that prize, it would be pretty surprising if he dropped out now. Could MacDonald, however, walk away if he wins the tourney? That’s a good question.