Rory MacDonald may have emerged from last Saturday’s (Jan. 20, 2018) Bellator 192 with the Bellator welterweight gold, but it was far from an easy path for the once-touted former UFC star.

Despite controlling former champion Douglas Lima on the ground enough to win on the judges’ cards, MacDonald absorbed a high number of Lima’s vaunted low kicks, enough so that the bottom of his leg became a swollen mess he said looked like it had a ‘person growing out of it.’

Indeed it was a brutal scene, and perhaps one of the more grotesque hematomas witnessed overall in MMA. MacDonald admitted he considered quitting the fight in order to preserve his health and fight another day, but in the end, he told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that it was a matter of mental toughness and discipline that enabled him to push through:

“Yeah, a few times. It went through my head. But I just kept pushing through it. I had to dig deep a few times and just break down some mental barriers and keep pushing.

“Any fight that I’ve had to endure a lot of punishment and keep going forward, yeah. Your mind always plays tricks on you and wants you to give in and it’s just being disciplined and being able to push through those doubts and anxieties.”

Of course, MacDonald is well-known for his five-round war with former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler at 2015’s UFC 189, a fight where he badly broke his nose in a heart-breaking loss after having ‘Ruthless’ in big trouble.

With comparisons to that bout and his fight with Lima inevitable, MacDonald said the two were hard to compare. In terms of pure overall physical pain, the hematoma was his worst, and he was proud of himself for being able to persevere through extreme adversity to win this time:

“Hard to compare,” MacDonald said. “A physical pain, I’d say this one was the worst, for sure. I would say this one was the worst as far as pain goes.

“I was definitely emotional. Especially going through a fight like that for the belt. It was a special moment for me, because I got to push those mental barriers to get to this championship. It was a nice feeling. It was a hard fight, it was a close one. It was something I really appreciated and I’ll always remember.”

And even though the fight was hailed as being less than entertaining, MacDonald acknowledged he simply had to do what he did to secure a win in one of the biggest fight of his career – even though he would have liked to have fought differently:

“I’m happy that I was able to push through those barriers, like I said.

“Those aren’t easy moments in a fight to get through. I was happy that I was able to stay focused on the prize and just keep going forward and stay focused on what I had to do, regardless of how I was feeling. I had to change things up in the fight. I would have liked to have fought differently, but I had to adjust. The fight went the way it did because of that.”