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Kelowna  

Rory's 'most important fight'

Rory MacDonald came back to the city where he learned to throw his first punch – Kelowna – in preparation for his Bellator MMA debut tonight.

MacDonald, one of the top welterweight fighters in the world, is fighting Paul Daley in London in the Bellator bout, his first fight since leaving the UFC.

MacDonald began learning how to fight at 14, at Kelowna's Toshido MMA, under the direction of David Lea. He was a fast learner, winning his first professional fight at 16 and joining the UFC in 2010.

Fast forward seven years, and MacDonald left the UFC after two straight losses, and is back training at the place that got him to the big show in the first place.

He hasn't had a full camp with Lea since 2010, when he moved to Montreal to train with MMA legend George St-Pierre.

“My training approach is different here,” Lea said. “A little bit more aggressive, a little bit more of employing your game plan and your will against your opponent rather than trying to be reactive.

“It's a little more of him going in there and just having fun again and fighting, not over-strategizing or overthinking.”

Lea says leading up to tonight's fight, MacDonald spent six weeks training at Toshido MMA, working on “getting back to that gritty, aggressive style that made him so special.”

MacDonald made the move to Bellator last summer after his contract ran out with the UFC. Lea said the move came down to money.

“They're really opening up their wallets for some of the higher talents like Rory,” Lea said. “UFC wanted to keep him, but Bellator just came to the table with more cash."

Coming off a fifth-round knockout loss for the UFC welterweight belt against then-champion Robbie Lawler in 2015, followed by a close decision loss to Stephen Thompson a year later, Lea says MacDonald has something to prove.

“It may be the most important fight of his career to this day,” Lea said. “This sport is ruthless, you're only as good as your last performance.”

The fight, along with the rest of the Bellator 179 card, can be seen on Spike TV starting at 6 p.m.



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