Michael McDonald is set for his promotional debut against Peter Ligier in the main event of Bellator 191 in Newcastle on Dec. 15, but he isn’t feeling any added pressure to please his new employers.
“Mayday” believes the contract Bellator offered him already underlined the faith that they have in him as a fighter and despite the magnifying glass that is cast over fighters moving from UFC to its main rival, the 26-year-old is far from overwhelmed by his situation.
“From my very first interaction with Bellator they’ve made it clear that they believe in me and they’re willing to show it, and I’m very appreciative of that,” McDonald told MMAFighting.com.
“They believed in me and were willing to give me what the UFC wasn’t and because of that I feel very valued.
“I don’t feel pressure in the sense that I have to show them that I’m good and that they were right to hire me. I’m really not feeling a whole lot of pressure coming into this, even personally.”
The former UFC title challenger insisted that the UFC’s bonus structure allows them to manipulate fighters. Without winning those bonuses, McDonald believes it’s very difficult for the majority of athletes to be “comfortable in life”.
“With the UFC’s bonus system and how it’s structured, if you win and you get a bonus you’re doing good, you’re comfortable in life. If you don’t win it, you’re starving. A lot of the guys in the UFC are at that place and it’s not a very good place to be,” he explained.
“Now I’m with Bellator and it’s not the way it is and I’m very happy about that. The bonus structure isn’t applied here with Bellator and because of that the base payments can be a bit better.
“In the UFC, they used to use the bonuses against you, they used them like a gun to your head.
“They would say, ‘We don’t want to raise your contract because you’re last fight was this or that’ or, ‘all you have to do is win some bonuses, if you win some bonuses you’ll be fine.’
“It was used more like a weapon than a reward, and I’m honestly glad that I don’t have to deal with that anymore.”
McDonald underlined that his signing for Bellator was a “business move,” citing financial stability as one of the main factors behind his decision.
“I had to really come to grips with this conflict – am I doing this as a business or a fighter?” he said.
“For the longest time I would tell myself that the money didn’t matter and I was only in this sport because I love it. Eventually that wears off once you have bills and a family and other responsibilities.
“If you don’t make that monthly requirement people start turning off your stuff. It’s a predicament because once you start becoming an adult, money does matter and I started fighting when I was a kid.
“Maybe it was all about the love of the game back then, but I had to make the decision that this is going to be my job.”
Although he believes he sacrificed some pride as a competitor by committing his future to Bellator, he knows he still has plenty of fire in his belly as evidenced by his gunfight with John Lineker in his last outing.
“I’m happy I made the decision but I guess part of that is me putting away my pride as a competitor, but sometimes that still comes out,” stated McDonald.
“In my fight with John Lineker, I didn’t want to take him down. I wanted to show the world that my hands were better than John’s. The fight showed his chin was better than mine, we were both hitting each other.
“My pride as a competitor can still come out, but as a businessman if I did that over again I would have thought, ‘Mike, you’re a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a fantastic wrestler – put this guy down and put him where he is least comfortable.’
“I still have that pride as a competitor, but moving over from the UFC was definitely a business decision. There is some great competition in Bellator as well so this should not come as an insult to the promotion, but some of the best in the world right now are in the UFC.”
While a lot of former UFC fighters that sign on the dotted line with Bellator look to thrust themselves into the title conversation as soon as possible, McDonald has some criteria that needs to be reached before he’s ready to commit to a title showdown.
“I have to leave that to my management, they’re the smart people behind my career and I need to take their council about who I’m fighting, for what amount of money and where,” he outlined.
“As a competitor I’m thinking, ‘give me the title shot right now’, but again, this has to be my business. When the money is right and the time is right we’ll have to make it happen.”