Going off of most logical accounts, Rory MacDonald should probably be the next contender to Robbie Lawler’s UFC welterweight title when “Ruthless” decides he’s ready to come back to the cage after a hellacious 2014.
After all, MacDonald, who was already promised the title shot before having it ripped away, has won three straight fights over Tarec Saffiedine, Tyron Woodley, and Demian Maia; with his last loss coming to a closely contested split decision against Lawler at November 2013’s UFC 167.
“The Red King” was instead scheduled to face former Bellator champion Hector Lombard at April’s UFC 186, but that bout fell apart yesterday when news broke that “Showeather” had tested positive for a steroid following UFC January’s 182.
After speaking with MacDonald about the unfolding situation, his head coach Firas Zahabi informed MMA Junkie just how their camp feels about the precocious situation. According to Zahabi, while his star pupil would rather have he and his opponent randomly tested, he still would have squared off with “Showeather”:
“It matters, of course,” Zahabi said. “Rory would rather both athletes get randomly tested. No funny business – it’s just a fair fight. But even if it wasn’t the case where a test was random and it was done before, Rory is still going to fight.”
The proven coach also touched on their current spot in the title picture, noting that Lombard’s removal could only serve to boost MacDonald up a peg or two:
“It’s one less guy in line for now, and that pushes Rory forward. Hector’s out of the picture,” Zahabi said. “I think Rory is in good standing in a way, because he’s been promised a title shot twice, and he’s proven himself already. Who else could do a title fight right now?
(Kelvin) Gastelum lost. He could have been a fresh new face. It would be tough. Unless something really happens between (Johny) Hendricks and (Matt) Brown, something really impressive, it’s still up for grabs.”
Zahabi has a good point, as MacDonald is the most likely beneficiary of Lombard’s failure. He said that it would certainly be optimal if MacDonald got the next shot, but said he’s also ready to earn if required:
“That would be great if it could work out that way,” Zahabi said. “But at the end of the day, he’s going to have to fight his way to the top, and he’s ready to do that.”
Zahabi shifted his focus to the topic of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in MMA as a whole, which have become the all-too-public scourge of the sport in recent weeks. Zahabi stated that he understands why fighters use them to gain an edge, but at the end of the day, they’re simply not allowed:
“I think there’s a lot of clean guys in the sport. I think it’s such a tough sport; it’s so demanding. Guys are fighting as often as they can to make money, and the training is so hard. There’s so much to do, it’s tempting to take shortcuts. But again, it’s not allowed.”
With high-profile fighters taking massive hits to their reputation and pocketbooks, Zahabi believes the increased testing will be good for the sport as more and more athletes see just how devastating steroid use can be to their careers:
“Guys are not going to want to get busted; guys are going to want to play it fair,” he said. “The risk of getting busted is too high, and then you have to live with the damage in the media. Your career is tainted forever. Every time you win, people are suspecting you of cheating. You break that trust with people. I think it will help clean up the sport in the end.”
Indeed a failed steroid test has become an almost damning sentence for a professional MMA fighter. Will the deluge of busts serve to curtail what has seemingly become an epidemic, or will users find a way to cheat the system as they have been for several years?
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