Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 | 12:40 a.m.
- Toothpick or not, Benson Henderson open to Gilbert Melendez and all comers after UFC on Fox 5
- UFC on Fox 5 live blog: Benson Henderson runs over Nate Diaz
- UFC on Fox 5 weigh-in: Nate Diaz nearly misses; B.J. Penn welcomed back
- Analysis: UFC finding right balance with Saturday’s fifth Fox card
- UFC on Fox 5 breakdown, betting odds and picks
- Why B.J. Penn nixed retirement for UFC on Fox 5
- UFC coverage
- All MMA/boxing coverage
Rory MacDonald tapped his feet, rolled his arms around each other and flung another jab into B.J. Penn’s face.
Most of the fans at the sold-out Key Arena booed lustily. MacDonald was putting the finishing touches on a unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) over Penn, but many thought he crossed the line by showing off and disrespecting one of the most beloved fighters in UFC history.
“I was pretty focused on what I was doing,” MacDonald said when asked if he heard the negative response. “It’s just something I do. It helps me change it up, helps me relax. It makes me pay attention to my footwork and stuff. It’s just a distraction. I’m not showboating or anything, just a technique.”
MacDonald’s annihilation of Penn capped off an unforeseen transformation for the 24-year-old.
Before UFC on Fox 5, the masses viewed him as nothing more than one of the sport’s most exciting young prospects. Afterwards, MacDonald was an unsuspecting villain.
At best, fans are describing his attitude as brash and confident. At worst, he’s being called cocky and arrogant.
“I don’t care if they love me or hate me,” MacDonald said. “I fight for myself and because I love it.”
There’s another thing fans learned about MacDonald: He’s not going to mince words. The Montreal-based welterweight will say what he thinks.
It’s how the feud with Penn got started in the first place. MacDonald openly declared he would “kill” Penn, which set the former two-time champion off.
But MacDonald refused to back down from an enraged Penn in events before the fight. The Canadian talked trash to Penn at Friday’s weigh-in and responded to several comments at Thursday’s press conference.
“B.J. was one of my heroes when I was growing up in the sport,” MacDonald admitted after the fight. “But I can’t carry that mindset into a fight with somebody. When I look across the octagon at somebody, it’s just another body to me, legend or not.”
MacDonald’s audacity reared itself again while Penn was getting rushed to a local hospital to treat possible broken ribs. While still in the octagon, MacDonald called out Carlos Condit for his next fight.
Condit handed MacDonald his only loss two-and-a-half years ago with a third-round TKO at UFC 115. The referee stopped the fight with seven seconds remaining.
If MacDonald could have held on, the judges would have awarded him the decision because he won the first two rounds easily. Despite the wild nature of the fight, MacDonald only remembers the humiliation.
“I was just laying there getting beaten on,” MacDonald said. “My face looked like I was the guy from ‘The Goonies’ laying out there. I was embarrassed about my performance and how I handled myself. It did a lot of damage, and I don’t think I’ve been the same person since, so I want to get that back.”
Condit won, mind you, but that didn’t get in the way of MacDonald asking for the fight in either his adopted home of Montreal or his old stomping grounds in Vancouver.
MacDonald may have turned some fans off, but fighters understand his mindset. Main-event winner and lightweight champion Benson Henderson even went out of his way when talking about his fight to defend MacDonald.
“It’s not about disrespecting your opponent,” Henderson said. “It’s about doing whatever it takes, whether it’s the Ali shuffle or whatever.”
MacDonald isn’t going to change, and he’s not going anywhere either. If he’s not championship-caliber already, MacDonald is only a fight or two away after UFC on Fox 5.
Might as well get used to his ways.
“I don’t care as long as I fight well, and I think I did,” MacDonald said. “If they don’t like me, I can’t do anything about it. I just have to be me.”