Canadian Rory MacDonald fights Jon Fitch to draw, retains title
Canada's Rory MacDonald connects with a kick on Jon Fitch during their Bellator welterweight title fight on Saturday, April 27, 2019 in San Jose Calif. MacDonald won by majority draw. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / HO-Bellator MMA-Lucas Noonan)
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Canadian Rory (Red King) MacDonald retained his title with a majority draw against veteran Jon Fitch in the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix.
The judges scored it 47-47, 47-47 and 48-46 for the 41-year-old Fitch. That meant the 170-pound championship belt still belongs to the 29-year-old MacDonald, drawing boos from the crowd Saturday night fight at the SAP Center.
The champion seemed uncertain about his future following the fight.
"I don't know what to say. I landed some good stuff in there. It's hard sometimes to pull the trigger now, I guess," MacDonald said in his post-fight interview. "I don't have that killer inside. I don't know. It's really hard to explain but I hesitate a little bit now. I don't know what to say. It wasn't my best performance."
He is scheduled to face Neiman Gracie (9-0-0) in the tournament semifinal. The other semifinal pits Douglas (The Phenom) Lima (30-7-0) against Michael (Venom) Page (14-0-0). Rapper-actor 50 Cent is offering a cash prize of US$1 million to the tournament winner.
As defending champion, MacDonald (20-5-1) puts his title on the line every time he fights in the tournament.
In the Bellator 220 co-main event, women's flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0-0) made a fourth straight successful title defence when the doctor stopped her bout with Veta Arteaga (5-3-0) due to a nasty facial cut to the challenger.
MacDonald, a native of Kelowna, B.C., who now makes his home in Montreal, had success striking in the first round before Fitch, a former Purdue wrestling captain, took him down late in the round.
MacDonald landed a powerful kick in the second and continued to have success with his right hand. The two exchanged takedowns at the end of the round.
It was more of the same in the third, with Fitch landing an earlier takedown and doing more damage including opening a facial cut. After absorbing some early shots, Fitch got top position again in the fourth and kept grinding on MacDonald.
Fitch stacked MacDonald against the fence in the fifth, with the champion looking for a submission from his back. The fight ended with Fitch looking for another takedown and MacDonald bleeding again from the cut over his right eye.
Firas Zahabi, MacDonald's longtime coach, raised the pre-fight temperature when he labelled Fitch a coward and a drug cheat.
Fitch (31-7-2 with one no contest) was suspended for nine months and fined US$2,500 after failing a drug test -- for testosterone -- ahead of his unsuccessful World Series of Fighting title challenge against Rousimar Palhares in December 2014.
Fitch is a battle-hardened veteran who is the first MMA fighter to contest titles with Bellator, the UFC and the Professional Fighters League/World Series of Fighting. Fitch, who showed tremendous resolve in a 2008 loss to then-UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, has won five straight since the Palhares debacle.
After leaving the UFC in 2016, MacDonald submitted Paul (Semtex) Daley in his Bellator debut before claiming the welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Lima in January 2018.
A bid to move up in weight and challenge for the Bellator middleweight title ended badly last September when champion Gegard (The Dreamcatcher) Mousasi stopped him in the second round of a one-sided battle.