The career of UFC bantamweight Michael McDonald is currently on hold due to one basic reality: He can't afford to take a fight.
McDonald (17-4) hasn't fought since he suffered a knockout loss to John Lineker in July. The 26-year-old says he's ready to book his next appearance, but doesn't have the necessary funds to start a proper training camp.
Since he's unwilling to take on debt for the sake of accepting a fight -- as he has done in the past -- McDonald's current plan is to save up money from a second job, that will eventually go toward his training costs.
"I'm trying to make enough money right now to pay my bills and still have a little savings for a camp," McDonald said. "And it's tough because I don't know if camp will be perfect and I don't know if I'll pay for one, only to have my opponent back out. It's always iffy."
For McDonald, a former UFC title challenger, his next move comes down to a "simple numbers game." At the moment, those numbers aren't in his favor.
McDonald says he made approximately $53,000 in the Lineker fight. That figure includes a base pay of $23,000, a $25,000 bonus to headline the event and $5,000 from the UFC's apparel deal with Reebok.
After subtracting taxes, training costs and other various expenses, McDonald estimates he only pockets one-third of that overall pay. He also tithes regularly to his church and earmarks a percentage of all earnings for a retirement account.
Bottom line: McDonald was left with money from his last fight to pay his bills and fund his next camp as long as he fought by December.
When a neck injury prevented him from maintaining that schedule, it meant more time between paychecks and, ultimately, not enough funds going into his next fight.
"My goal is to fight, but I also have to keep my possessions," McDonald said. "I've borrowed money before and racked up $15,000 in debt in order to train like a professional athlete. And I've went through injuries and lost everything, twice. I've lost my home and moved back in with my parents.
"The worst part is you never really know if you have enough. You just get this chunk of money and you're saying, 'I hope this [is] enough.' Let's say I have $20,000 in the bank. I think I'm good, start working my butt off, get injured and need surgery. By the time I get healthy, now I've got $5,000. What happens if I get injured again? I've had three hand surgeries and taken two years off before. You go into a lot of debt doing that."
At the beginning of the month, McDonald reached out to the UFC to inform them of his situation and ask if anything could be done to get him back into competition. He had several conversations with UFC officials, but nothing has materialized. Recently, his attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
"For the longest time, I haven't wanted to say anything about this," McDonald said. "When people open their mouths and talk about how they're not paid enough, it seems like they disappear. I'm to a point now where I have nothing to lose. The UFC isn't paying my bills as it is.
"I wanted there to be a happy ending to this. I told them, 'Hey, people are starting to ask me where I am, and the truth doesn't put my relationship with the UFC in a very good light.' Still, nothing changed."
McDonald has several bouts left on his UFC contract, which means unless he wins a bonus in an upcoming fight, there is a chance this cycle will just repeat itself in the future -- McDonald relying on a second job to pay for his UFC career.
The situations beg the question: Is it worth it? Is it worth investing money from another profession into a single cage fight?
"Absolutely," McDonald said. "I will continue to fight and I will become a UFC champion. This is my dream. I want to live my dream. I'm pretty sure I could be a doctor and make better money. I have the intelligence. Being a fighter has always been my dream. If this is what it takes, I'll do it."