Former UFC bantamweight title challenger Michael McDonald made his Bellator MMA debut late last year in the Bellator 191 main event against Peter Ligier. Despite a win, McDonald broke his hand in the fight. While on the shelf, McDonald caught up with MyMMANews.com repter Tony Reid.
Tony Reid – You come from a fighting family with you and both of your brothers Justin and Brad fighting as well. You grew up on a large piece of land, with few people outside your immediate family close to you. So which fight or fights with your brothers were the most memorable growing up?
Michael McDonald – “Oh man, back then me and my little brother were bored a lot. We had nothing to do out in the country. One time we got two sweaters. Put them around our waists. Our heads were through the neck holes. It looked like we had skirts on. We took the sleeves and tied them to each other. We put boxing gloves and on and went at it as sweater tied boxers. That was when I was eight and he was probably six. We videotaped it; we watched it over and over. Ten years later we did the same thing, taped it and put it on the same tape. We had round two a decade later, both being professional fighters.”
Tony Reid – Being a non denominational Protestant Christian in the public eye, what has been the biggest obstacle to overcome in your goal to spread the word and your message? Have you had any outwardly negative feedback along the way?
Michael McDonald – “The biggest thing I see is that the self righteous Christians ruin it for all of us. I get a lot of people who have been hurt by Christians. That usually seems to be the root of why people are turned off. People preach about not looking at to other women and then you find them with dancers in their hotel rooms. They tell you to treat your family right and then behind closed doors they are abusing their wives or kids. It really turns people off and creates animosity towards Christians in general. They think all Christians are like that. The biggest message I try to get across is that God and people are two different things. Most of the time we are the only Jesus people see. They ask where our God is in Libya or Connecticut and stuff like that. Even the sound of God pisses people off. My biggest hurdle and goal all in one is trying to get through to people but not beat it into them.”
Tony Reid – Of course when religion and a professional athlete are used in the same sentence Tim Tebow’s name is bound to come up as a comparison or benchmark. How do you feel about that comparison?
Michael McDonald – “It’s a very courageous thing that he is doing. It’s difficult to stay true to yourself and stay grounded. I know. People are looking at you, throwing things at you, it’s very tempting. Nothing is free. It’s very difficult to stay grounded when people are throwing money and girls and fame at you. He is doing it on a level that I’m not on, with the exposure he has. It’s very courageous.”
Tony Reid – With the “Fight of the Night” bonus ($55,000) you won after Ultimate Fight Night 24 you gave a large portion of it ($30,000) to your parents to pay off debt. That is a pretty amazing thing to do. Talk about your parents and their influence during your childhood and your relationship to this day.
Michael McDonald – “My parents are complete opposites. My dad is the hardest working man I have ever met. He has literally broken his body for our family. Even when there wasn’t any money we didn’t know it. I had a nice Christmas every year. I had a great birthday every year. He made sure we had that life. It wasn’t crazy or foolish. It was a normal life and they did everything they could to sacrifice for us. My mother is the sweetest lady I ever met in my life. Every time we were home, she was home. She didn’t work, she raised us, and they sacrificed a lot. I thought that (giving the bonus) was the least I could do for my parent who broke their bodies to give us everything they could growing up.”
Tony Reid – You were competing in smokers and other amateur fights as early as 14 years of age. What do you remember about competing at that young age?
Michael McDonald – “I didn’t think about it much, honestly. What made me fall in love with MMA wasn’t the right thing. The competition and proving myself, and trying to show people I was good. That’s why I fought. That’s why I wanted to fight initially. I was as good as the other guys in the gym that were fighting and getting recognition. I remember getting my mom to sign off on me fighting. It was like ‘Hey mom, I’m 14 and I want to go fight grown men and see if I can beat them up in a cage.’ It was like, ‘Ok honey; here you go, have a good time.'”
Tony Reid – With starting in the game at such an early age you never had a “real job”. So, if you weren’t a professional mixed martial artist what would you be doing for a living right now?
Michael McDonald – “When I was 18 and had nothing to do I worked for the Census Bureau for some time. Fighting has been my main job my whole life. When I had surgery, it was almost a year that I didn’t have a fight, I started doing woodworking. I do furniture and cabinetry. That was my main job while I was going through the rehab from the surgery.”
Tony Reid – If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see which fight would you choose and why?
Michael McDonald – “They all have something special. They are each a milestone in their own right. Each one has its own messages. Fighting is very spiritual to me. Each one has been a gift from God, in my eyes. My personal favorite was my second fight with Cole Escovedo. I got the Tachi Palace Championship. After getting the crap kicked out of me the first fight I came back convincingly, and used wrestling, a little Jiu Jitsu and some striking.”
Tony Reid – If you could fight anyone in any weight class who would you choose to fight and why?
Michael McDonald – “I love testing myself as a martial artist. It’s not about wanting to kill a guy or beat him up. It’s not about that to me. If I could do my job and no one knew my name I would be happy with that. I want to test myself as a martial artist. I would want to test myself against Anderson Silva. I consider myself a martial artist, not necessarily an athlete and I think of him in the same way. He is a true martial artist and I would want to test myself against him. I think it would be a technical battle between him and I, a game of inches.”
Tony Reid – What is the one thing about Michael McDonald that has yet to be covered in an interview that you would like to let the world know about you?
Michael McDonald – “I am very involved in self progression. I am very involved with my church program. I really respect anything about self progression and not being satisfied with the way things are and people who want to improve themselves. I don’t go to it, but I am a big fan of Alcoholics Anonymous. I want to be a counselor one day. I want to be a marriage counselor someday. I’m all bout self progression, becoming closer to God and a better a happier person all around. I think doing something so chaotic as fighting, not knowing when I’m going to get paid, how much I’m going to get paid, not knowing if I’m going to have a job tomorrow, if I win and go up and someone else has to go down, its very chaotic and I need peace in my life.
“As far as MMA, it’s a job. I don’t care about titles or fame, to be truthful; I hate this job a lot of the time. It’s very stressful. What keeps me here is the fact that it provides for me and my future family and secondly, the martial arts aspect. If it wasn’t for martial arts I would quit in a heartbeat. I love the fact that my office is a mat. I get to go every day and expand my mind and train and the brotherhood you get battling another brother is wonderful. My love is in martial arts and that’s what keeps me doing this job.”