It's pretty scary to think that with a 4-0 record inside the Octagon, Michael McDonald has never fought in the UFC even close to full health.
The fact is no fighter ever enters a contest feeling completely at 100-percent. Training camps produce a lot of wear and tear on the body, and McDonald is completely understanding of that fact, but what he was dealing with was far more than the normal rigors of fight preparation.
Over the last two and a half years, McDonald has suffered through a left shoulder injury and, more severely, a very damaged hand that has prevented him from ever really hitting pads as he got ready for a fight.
As his doctors described it, McDonald's hand injury was very similar to what UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been plagued by on a couple of occasions after fights, and following McDonald's last win, over Miguel Torres, enough was enough.
“There's like a protective film over your knuckles and in between my middle knuckle and my ring finger, I split that protective film, so every time I would make a fist that film would roll over and expose my bone and it was only my bone and skin every time I'd punch. It started scarring up and there was just all this grossness around my knuckle. It would swell up after every fight and it was very painful,” McDonald said during Tuesday's edition of MMAWeekly Radio.
It got so bad prior to his fight with Chris Cariaso that McDonald couldn't even warm up in the back because his hand was so bad, and the most pain he felt that night wasn't from the three rounds he went through in the Octagon… it was from putting on his glove in the back prior to walking down to the cage.
Finally, McDonald underwent the necessary surgery to repair the damage and after removing a tendon from his wrist to essentially “tie up” the broken area in his knuckle, he's returning at full strength.
“That's pretty much how my training has been for the last two and a half years, having to pick and choose which exercises I can do. Everyone else can go do one thing and I have to go lightly to baby my injuries. It feels great to go in there and tear things up when I want to tear things up and go light when I want to go light and not be limited by my injuries,” McDonald said.
The fact that McDonald has only gotten stronger in his UFC performances is just a testament to how truly talented this 21-year-old really is at such a young age.
“To think that I made it through that one and got a few wins after that, it's pretty incredible. I feel very blessed,” said McDonald.
As of Monday, McDonald is officially back on his horse, training and preparing for a future fight. He got to enjoy a fat and happy Thanksgiving, but now his diet is restricted and his days are filled with training sessions.
There's been no bout officially offered, but just about everyone including UFC president Dana White appears ready to offer McDonald a crack at interim bantamweight titleholder Renan Barao in early 2013.
It's not hard to gauge McDonald's interest in the potential fight. He's the kind of guy who says yes to a fight and then calls his manager back to ask who he's facing.
“That's cool with me; I don't mind at all. I said this before and I really stand by my statement, I believe I can fight anybody in the world and when I saw that, it said, ‘Dana White says Michael McDonald is most likely for the title with Renan Barao.' I looked at it and said ‘that's cool' and went on with my day,” said McDonald.
“I really feel I was ready for this a while ago and to me, whether it's Renan or Urijah (Faber) or (Dominick) Cruz or whoever's at the top, I'm comfortable with it. I've been preparing a long time.”
McDonald says he could be ready to fight as early as the end of January, but whenever the UFC comes calling he'll be sure to answer, and he's excited to show the world what he's really capable of doing when he returns in 2013.
Listen to Michael McDonald's full interview on Tuesday's edition of MMAWeekly Radio.