When UFC welterweight Rory MacDonald first signed with the UFC, he made the tough decision to move away from his home and longtime training centre in Kelowna, B.C. to Montreal so he could train with Canada’s best MMA camp, in Tristar/Zahabi MMA.
One of the main reasons for the move was so he could train alongside Georges St-Pierre — the man many considered to be the top welterweight fighter in the world. Although he admits that the top-tier training sessions coupled with the more frequent and higher volume strength and conditioning periods took some time to acclimate to, MacDonald says his more stringent preparations have paid off in dividends.
“Year-by-year my skill-set improves leaps and bounds, but since I arrived at the TriStar gym in Montreal last August my game has gone through the roof. The rate of improvement has just accelerated even further and I’m now gaining the kind of experience, in both the gym and in fights, that [my upcoming opponent Mike] Pyle says I need to accumulate over time. I’m a far better fighter now than I was this time last year, as I’m mixing with a better class of fighter and coach and have also added numerous tools to my game,” MacDonald wrote in his most recent blog for Sportsnet.ca. “The gym is now my full-time home and I have a second family there. When I first moved down here, Georges St-Pierre was one of the most helpful guys and was always looking to make the transition easier for me. I didn’t have a car at the time, and Georges went out of his way to pick me up every day for training.”
“I went to all his training sessions with him and watched and studied the way he went about work. I’d then pick his brain on the journey to and from the gym. I followed him everywhere for a good few months and really got a priceless insight into how a great champion trains and lives,” he explains. “You pick up so much experience from just talking to guys like Georges. He would talk to me about how he prepares, how he deals with nerves and everything else in between. No question went unanswered and it was a huge benefit for me.”
According to MacDonald, GSP took him under his wing like he was apprenticing the young fighter to perhaps one day take over for him when he hangs up his four-ounce gloves. MacDonald, who recently traded in his “Waterboy” monicker for “Ares,” the Greek God of War, says that one of the most valuable lessons he learned from observing St-Pierre is that in order to be the best, a fighter needs to put every ounce of effort into improving like St-Pierre does on a daily basis.
“Georges is like no other training partner. He is not only very accommodating and personable, but he also happens to be the best fighter on the planet. You couldn’t ask for a better guy to show you the ropes. He’s an amazing person and one of my best friends. I now know that in order to reach the level Georges is at right now I have to do everything he does and more. He lives and breathes his career and the sport and leaves nothing to chance. He’s the most dedicated and hard-working guy I have ever seen. If you’re not willing to sacrifice and dedicate yourself to the game the way Georges does then don’t expect to reach the same level. He also does it right. While other guys are out lifting weights and trying to just get the “look,” Georges will be studying and perfecting his art. He knows what is important and what isn’t. He is both a great athlete and a great technician.”
I spoke with MacDonald before his UFC debut against Mike Guymon when he was just a casual visiting training partner of St-Pierre’s prior to his move east from B.C. and when asked if he would ever face a fighter whom he considered a friend, he said he would and that it “would be no different than playing one of his friends in volleyball or ping pong.” When asked if that meant he would fight St-Pierre, he said that if he deserved the title shot, he would see no problem with putting their budding friendship aside for 25 minutes to compete against each other. His view seems to have changed, although it’s interesting how he chooses his words when explaining that he “would never ask for a title shot” against GSP while he was still UFC champion. He doesn’t say whether or not he would accept the fight if the UFC offered it to him.
“I get asked all the time whether I’d fight Georges or not, and my answer is always the same. I’d never go out of my way to disrespect Georges or any of the guys at the TriStar gym. These guys are like to family to me now and Georges is as close as a brother. I would never ask for a title shot while he was still UFC champion. He has helped me out, taught me things and extended his trust to me. There’s no way I could then turn around and demand a fight against him. I would never disrespect him like that,” MacDonald explains. “If anything, I would move up in weight and fight for the middleweight or light-heavyweight belts instead. I’m not scared to move up in weight. By the time my career is over, I’d like to say that I’d competed at welterweight, middleweight, light-heavyweight and even heavyweight. I’d love to do something like that.”