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McDonald hopeful return is closer

Bantamweight Michael McDonald has not fought since a December 2013 loss to Urijah Faber. Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

In a year that has been rife with injuries in the UFC, one casualty has flown somewhat under the radar in 23-year-old bantamweight Michael McDonald.

McDonald (16-3) has not fought since suffering a one-sided loss to Urijah Faber in December, due to discomfort and loss of strength in his right hand. Physicians were puzzled by the problem at first, but eventually diagnosed a bone spur around a joint in his second metacarpal.

In August, McDonald underwent a procedure in Las Vegas that removed bone fragments from the area and fused parts of the metacarpal together. McDonald is scheduled to resume light pad work with the hand next week. He expects to schedule an evaluation with the performing surgeon, Dr. James W. Vahey of the Hand Center of Nevada, shortly.

"There is cartilage on the ends of bones within a joint that act like a cushion," McDonald told ESPN.com. "There was a bone spur in mine. So, instead of a cushion it was like a rock was there. They removed the bone spur and actually fused the bones together with a bone marrow transplant from my wrist. They put in a metal plate, screws -- all that good stuff.

"I'm supposed to wait another week before I start hitting with it. I'll know soon. I'm not concerned that any of this is going to stop me from fighting. I know I'll be 100 percent and it will be fixed."

A hard timetable for McDonald's return remains elusive, due to the unknown of how his hand will respond and an additional issue in his right wrist.

McDonald says he has dealt with a wrist injury for years, but it has gotten worse this year. The problem relates to the wrist's mobility, particularly in bending backwards.

To top it off, McDonald says his shoulder could probably use surgery as well, but that's an afterthought. In terms of getting back into the Octagon, it is the hand and wrist that must be addressed.

"After hand surgery, my wrist started to get worse," McDonald said. "We're going to have to explore that and see what can be done. Maybe some crazy amount of therapy can fix it, or I'll have to have surgery again.

"I have a tendon floating around in my forearm from my hand that's making my pinkie sag down, but I'm not really worried about that. I probably need shoulder surgery, but I'm not really worried about that either. My hand and wrist are messed up. That's the main problem."

At least time is on McDonald's side, as he is still two months removed from his 24th birthday. He is already 5-2 overall in the UFC and ranked the No. 6 bantamweight in the world by ESPN.com.

Moving forward, McDonald says he has started to take a completely different approach to his training regimen to avoid further injury. In his words, he plans to "break from the mold" on traditional strength and conditioning in mixed martial arts, including incorporating more heavy weight exercises.

"I guess what I've learned is I'm different," McDonald said. "I can't do what everyone else is doing. I could actually gain some weight and strengthen my muscles and bones. I'm going towards more traditional heavy lifting, which people say, 'Don't do in MMA.' It's making my joints feel great.

"The best way I can describe it is everyone is trying to strip down their race car and make it lighter -- taking away from the frame. I actually need to put more weight on my race car. What I'm moving to is completely opposite of what everyone thinks they should do in MMA."