Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Canadian MMA fighter looks forward after tough outing in UFC 68

By Neil Davidson

(CP) - Jason MacDonald turned heads when he walked through the Chicago airport Sunday. With black eyes, facial bruises and stitches, the six-foot-three mixed martial arts fighter clearly wasn't someone to mess with.

Several days after his loss Saturday night to former middleweight champion Rich Franklin at UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio, MacDonald's mood is still a little dark but the 31-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., now sees positives ahead.

"I took two giant step forwards with my first two fights in the UFC and that loss to Rich Franklin, I feel, is only a small step backwards," MacDonald told The Canadian Press from his home Tuesday.

MacDonald (19-8) turned heads in the UFC with submission wins over Ed (Short Fuse) Herman and Chris (The Crippler) Leben.

But Franklin (23-3) was a step up in class and Saturday proved to be a tough night at the office for MacDonald.

Franklin's takedown defence stymied MacDonald. And the Canadian found himself on his back, with Franklin sitting on top of him, twice in the second round.

The final mount was the most painful.

"He hit me with a couple of solid punches there," MacDonald said. "The second last one snuck right through my hands and hit me right in that right eye. Instantly I saw a flash in my eye and I lost all vision in that right eye.

"At the end of the round, I wasn't sure if (referee) Herb Dean had actually stopped the fight or if the fight was over, but he looked at me and said 'You made it through the round.'

"When I stood up there, I was on some pretty wobbly legs. And couldn't see out of my right eye at all. And then the left eye had some swelling around it."

Franklin certainly thought the fight had been called, before turning and returning to his corner.

He was proved right seconds later when Mark Pavelich, MacDonald's trainer and manager, threw in the towel after MacDonald informed him he couldn't see out of his right eye.

"I'm disappointed with the loss but I wasn't too disappointed with the way I'd fought up until that point," said MacDonald.

He does did not dispute the decision to call it quits. But it's clearly not one he would have made as a fighter. MacDonald would have gone out, wobbly legs, damaged eye and all.

"You're trained to go out there and fight and do what you do. That's why it's important to have good trainers and good coaches," he said. "They have the ability to see when you are in trouble and make those decisions for you."

MacDonald acknowledged that Franklin's unexpectedly cautious style threw him off.

"I ended up chasing him around a little more maybe than I should have. Part of our plan was to get the takedown but to not force it too much."

Franklin's southpaw stance also caused problems.

"One of my strong tools is my reach and my long jab, and using my jab to set up my other punches. It's really frustrating when you're fighting a left-hander, especially a left-hander of Rich's calibre. It takes away some of your tools."

Normally a weapon, MacDonald's jab left him open to Franklin's left-hand counter.

MacDonald had seven stitches inserted after the fight, joining fellow fighters Chris Lytle and Renato (Babalu) Sobral at the hospital in a lineup for treatment.

He still has fights left on his UFC contract and believes the circuit will come back to him.

"I still consider myself one of the top middleweights in that division and feel that I'll beat 95 per cent of the middleweights right now," he said.

Several days removed from the fight, he can now see out of his eye "but it's fairly painful."

Doctors told him a broken blood vessel may have caused the vision to go.

There was little reaction at home to the damage when he got back. At this stage, the MacDonald family is used to the bumps and bruises that go with Dad's job.

Sons Tristin, 8, and Keel, 5, were unfazed.

"They had a look at my eyes. That was kind of just something they expect to see," MacDonald said.

But baby daughter Jett, almost a year old now, wasn't sure.

"She was sitting on my lap and was giving me some strange looks, but that only lasted for five or 10 minutes. Then she was right back to normal."

"It's a pretty common thing to see me with some black eyes and some stitches," he added.

MacDonald, who won all six of his fights in 2006, had planned to take some time off and recharge but found himself visiting the gym Tuesday to hit the treadmill and lift some weights.

"I'm already feeling the itch to get back in the gym and start working on some of the areas I feel I have to work on."

He also plans to help work with teammate Victor (The Matrix) Valimaki who's set to take on Alessio Sakara at UFC 70: Worlds Collide on April 21 in Manchester, England.

In the meantime, he has indulged himself with a glass of wine at dinner and some ice cream.

There was reason to lift a glass Tuesday night as MacDonald was named the first winner of the Edmonton Boxing Wrestling Commission's Mixed Martial Arts Fighter of the Year award.

MacDonald thinks his next fight may be Denmark's Martin Kampmann, who submitted Drew McFedries on Saturday night.

"I feel like I'd beat him and I'll be right back on track," he said.

Whoever he meets will find a fighter in the mood across the ring.

"I'm already in that mood now," he said.

As for the 185-pound championship, MacDonald had expected Anderson Silva to defend his title next against Nate Marquardt. But now he thinks the Silva-Franklin rematch may come first, given the spotlight focused on those two fighters in the ring Saturday night after MacDonald was beaten.


No comments: