Rory MacDonald is back in Canada, on crutches but with the Bellator welterweight championship belt in tow.
The former UFC contender won a unanimous five-round decision to dethrone American-based Brazilian Douglas Lima in a war of attrition at Bellator 192 on Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
The judges scored the fight 49-48, 49-45, 49-46 for MacDonald.
“He fought harder that last round … hats off to him, he fought hard,” said Lima.
While Lima lost, he battered MacDonald with kicks that left a huge swelling on the side of his left leg. The newly crowned champion left the cage on a stretcher and headed immediately to hospital.
“I think I have a person growing inside me,” MacDonald said of his leg injury after the fight.
The 28-year-old MacDonald, no stranger to being involved in bloody battles, also suffered damage to his nose, which had been broken in previous fights.
The good news was the leg injury was a hematoma and he did not break his nose. He spent two extra days in Los Angeles to rest the leg — which looked like a book had been placed under the skin — before returning to Canada.
“It hurts but it will fade,” he tweeted after the fight.
While on crutches, he expects to be walking by next week, according to Bellator.
MacDonald, hobbled by Lima’s leg kicks, said it was the most pain he had ever felt in a fight.
“After the first (leg kick), I knew I didn’t want to get hit with another one,” he told the MMA Hour. “In the first round I was already pretty hurt by then. By the third I was struggling pretty badly with it.”
He said he felt a few times he might not be able to continue “but I just kept pushing through it.”
MacDonald, a native of Kelowna, B.C., who trains in Montreal, improved his record to 20-4 while Lima fell to 29-7.
“He’s the best fighter I ever fought,” MacDonald said after the bout. “I feel like we’re the best two welterweights in the sport.”
While MacDonald lost his UFC title fight to (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler in 2015, he does hold a win over current UFC welterweight champ Tyron Woodley in 2014.
MacDonald submitted Paul (Semtex) Daley in his Bellator debut last May.
His championship win Saturday drew social media praise from former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
“Congratulations to my good friend and training partner and … New Welterweight Champion @rory_macdonald!!! He again showcased his amazing toughness and tenacity last night, a true warrior!” St-Pierre wrote.
MacDonald joins Julia Budd, the women’s featherweight champion, as Bellator title-holders.