UFC bantamweight contender Michael McDonald made his professional mixed martial arts debut in 2007 at the age of 16. Six years later, he’s one of the most dangerous 135-pound fighters on the UFC roster and has already fought for a UFC title.
At 22 years old, he’s one of the younger athletes signed to the organization, but he’s no up-and-comer. He faces former featherweight champion Urijah Faber in the UFC on Fox 9 co-main event on Dec. 14, and fighting in high-profile fights has become normal for the California native.
“Everything is kind of a blur honestly. And frankly, every once in a while I'll sit back and I'll look at where I am and what's all happened ever since I turned pro at 16. That was over six years. I'm 22 now. Over these six years I can look back and it just seems pretty crazy that it all happened at one point in time,” McDonald told MMAWeekly.com.
“Yes, I've already fought for a UFC title. People live their whole life to just play for the Super Bowl. I've already done that and I don't really think about it. I'm conscious it happened and now it's… things are going to keep happening and it's kind of become normal,” he added.
UFC on Fox 9 takes place at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif., where Faber’s training camp is located. But McDonald isn’t fazed about taking on the former champion in Faber’s proverbial backyard.
“It's not exactly the way that I really think about it. I don't really think about it so much at all, honestly, no matter where I am — whether I'm in England or Washington or San Jose. No matter where I am, I really don't look at the crowd. I don't think about the crowd,” he said.
“I actually completely disconnect myself from everybody before the fight. Afterwards, I'll go out and I'll enjoy it and stuff like that. But I just do like I have something on my mind. I'm busy right now. I'm working. I'll say hi to everybody. I'll do all that kind of stuff later,” he added.
“I don't really focus on that too much; the energy of people and how many fans I have at one place or another. To me, it's just about going out there and doing what I do. And I feel like when I, if I would rely on people, then it just adds another x-factor, which I don't need,” continued McDonald. “I'd rather just get it out of my head completely so it's not even a factor.”
McDonald is from Modesto, Calif., 75 miles from Sacramento. When he made his professional debut in 2007, Faber was the featherweight champion and the face of the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting. But McDonald won’t be star struck when he steps into the cage with the veteran.
“I usually only look up to people who I see something in particular that I want to do. Urijah has a very different fighting style than I do. So he wasn't exactly someone that I watched as a kid and be, like, oh I want to be Urijah Faber because I fight different. I wanted to fight different,” said McDonald.
“There's people like, very, very (good) fighters actually that I looked up to. One is like Bas Rutten because I wanted to fight like him. But it's not so much about me being star struck with Urijah and now I have to fight him or anything like that,” he added.
“From a young age, I kind of looked at all of my people in the division and just looked at them as competition; even from a young age,” said McDonald. “When I was 16, I saw (Miguel Torres) fight, No, I don't think I was even 16. I think I was, like, 15 or something like that. And I saw (Miguel Torres) fight (Manny Tapia). And right away I said I'm better than both of those guys. I want to fight them. And I got to do that. But I think early on I got to see everybody as competition.”