In the Blue Corner with Rory McDonell


Rory stretching out prior to a fight (photo by S. McManus)

 The arduous task for an athlete in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts of becoming a marquee name can be a difficult route to navigate.  The road to success in this sport is at times paved with handpicked opponents of thought-to-be lesser skills, resulting in the ‘padded record’ syndrome.  Conversely, the path may also be etched with hard work and a blatant disregard of one’s apparent lifeline within the sport – the numerical equivalent to an individual tax bracket – the official record.   The mindset in either of these options is not a negative, per se – however they have very different effects.  A fighter loses a semblance of respect if they turn down a fight, only to pick one up to an underdog – however, managers and trainers would be neglectful if they did not offer guidance which best suited the success of their athlete.  Pick and choose which fights to take and one could be on the brink of major exposure.  Take whatever fights come your way and you could find yourself hitting .500 in a hurry.  Enter Rory McDonell. 

The Oakville, Ontario native is coming off the fourth win of his career over Team Bergeron pupil Yves Lemelin at Ringside 5: Triple Threat.  This most recent win evens out McDonell’s career record at 4-4-0.  On the surface, Rory’s record is indicative of mediocrity, however under closer scrutiny, an under-rated Canadian lightweight is evident.  Rory explains;  

…my first fight I got caught.  I’ve had a couple of close decision losses, that – I don’t want it to sound like sour grapes – they could have just as easily gone my way, and right there that takes my record from 4-4 to 6-2 – it is what it is, I’m taking steps in the right direction – I’m not caught up in watching my record. 

It is important to note that two of Rory’s losses came at the hands of recent Bellator acquisitions – Mike Ricci and Ferrid Kheder while losing a third to a skilled Lindsey Hawkes.  McDonell, a well respected grappler, has had all four of his wins come by way of submission.  Rory credits Jeff Joslin with his submission proficiency; 

He’s actually the reason I got into fighting. I wrestled at the University of Guelph – he came up to get some wrestling work in…he offered to train me in Jiu-Jitsu and boxing if I’d come and work on some wrestling with him and I fell in love with MMA.  He’s been my grappling coach for four years or so and he’s the reason I am where I am at now for sure. 

The English Literature and History graduate is currently the MMA instructor at Evolution MMA in Mississauga, Ontario and considers it his home gym.  He also trains his stand up at Adrenaline MMA in London and continues to hone his ground game at Joslin’s in Hamilton.  McDonell considers himself fortunate to be in the position that he is in.  “It’s actually a pretty nice setup, between instructing and fighting I am able to pay the bills…I am young enough that I do not have a wife or a mortgage so I do not need a ton of money – so I’m trying to make this work while I can,” states the 28 year old.  

McDonell, who has never had a winning record – he started his career with a loss and has flip-flopped to land even-keel, has the impression of stringing together some wins on his mind;   

I have started to move in that direction. I have surrounded myself with people that are going to be helping me to improve on my weaknesses and at the same time strengthening what I am already good at…it’s just going to be a matter of getting my striking where I want it and things will start to fall into place. 

In his last outing, Rory obviously had a game plan put together for the always dangerous Bergeron student in Lemelin and it did not involve keeping the fight on its feet for very long.  “Coming from that camp, I knew Yves was a tough striker.  I’m confident in my hands, but my world is on the ground.  He’s a tough guy. I had that choke locked up tight for awhile, I could not get the tap – so I transitioned to the arm and got the tap,” states McDonell.  

Gerald Ching holding pads for McDonell prior to Ringside fight (photo by S. McManus)

Attempting to negotiate fights with a 4-4 record is a problematic undertaking – Rory explains, “having a 4-4 record and being a good fighter makes it tough to get fights – it’s a lose-lose to a guy who’s trying to build his record – he loses to a guy that’s 4-4 and it immediately drops him down, or he wins and it’s like ‘well so what’, you know?”  Would it have been beneficial to face less-skilled opponents earlier on?  Rory maintains that;   

I have always been of the mindset, and it may not be the best things for my career, but I always want to fight the toughest guys.  I have never been interested in padding my record and I have never asked for easy fights.  That’s not why I’m doing this, I like the challenge and I want to be fighting the best guys that I can.  

On the heels of his last win, the Fairtex, Fight Planet, Boulder’s and Popeye’s sponsored fighter, dedicated his victory to Mike Post, who was his first boxing coach and dear friend who had unfortunately passed away between his last two fights.   

What’s next in line for McDonell? “It looks like it’ll be in Quebec; I want to be busy this year, so I’ll fight where I get an offer.” As far as possible opponents go, Rory responds that, “…I think there’s a lot of guys, I’m not looking to pad my record I just want to fight the toughest guys out there.”         

In a sport where a fighter’s record speaks volumes to promoters, managers and media alike, it is safe to say that Rory McDonell is one of the most under-rated lightweight fighters in the country.  His record clearly is what it is, and he’ll be the first to admit it, but Rory does not care, he just wants to fight. 

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Ringside 5 Recap

4 Responses to “ In the Blue Corner with Rory McDonell ”

  1. Christina says:

    Rory’s a good guy!
    good story!

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  2. Greg Post says:

    Keep up the good work kid…Mike would be proud.
    Stay focused and keep working hard.
    All the best from Team PrimeTime.

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  3. Glenn says:

    A good and well written article – Nicely done Sean

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  4. hawkes says:

    rory is a great guy and a great fighter. He is by far the most skilled guy on the ground that i have fought.

    his record is due to some tough fights and some bad luck. i would put him higher that many undefeated fighters in terms of skill.

    i wish him the best!

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