Less than three months after one of the most impressive performances of his career, 27-year-old bantamweight Michael McDonald has decided to retire from mixed martial arts.
McDonald (19-4) informed ESPN of his decision this week. McDonald is fresh off a 58-second knockout of former Bellator MMA champion Eduardo Dantas in July, but was forced to undergo his fifth hand surgery in the last five years following the bout.
A former UFC title challenger, McDonald said he wrestled with the idea of retirement even prior to his latest injury, and is confident he can now move on from professional fighting.
"This last fight, everything was perfect," McDonald told ESPN. "This feels good. Most people, when they quit, it's because they can't hang. They've been beaten out of the sport and their family is sitting them down and asking them to please stop. For me, it's not a matter of skill or being able to perform, but I'm at a point where the cost is greater than the reward."
A devoted Christian, McDonald said he prayed in the locker room before his sensational win over Dantas for two things: a clear sign of whether or not he should continue his career and, if the answer was no, a quick victory.
He said both requests were answered "to perfection."
"I said, 'I don't know if I can even ask for this, but I'm asking you to show me, blatantly, if you want me to quit fighting. And if that is absolutely what you want, can you give me a hole-in-one?'" McDonald said. "Against an amazing opponent like Eduardo Dantas, I know how rare that is."
McDonald knocked out Dantas in spectacular fashion, but injured his left hand in the process. He initially hoped to avoid surgery, but was forced to go under the knife in August. During the procedure, McDonald said the anesthesiologist made an error that has immobilized his left bicep.
"My entire left arm is about half the size of my right arm," McDonald said. "It's unusable. I can't even pick up a cup of water. It's possible my left bicep never comes back to use.
"I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of these hand injuries. I'm exhausted of breaking my body in half. I prayed to God and asked if he would tie up my Bellator contract, leave me in good standing with the company, and give me a hole-in-one. I have no question now that God's plan for the rest of my life is for me to move on."
McDonald, of Modesto, California, was considered one of the top prospects in the sport when he made his UFC debut at the age of 20 in 2011. He catapulted into title contention with a first-round knockout of WEC legend Miguel Torres in 2012.
He fought Renan Barao for the UFC's interim title in February 2013, and lost via fourth-round submission. He went on to go 2-2 in his next four fights in the UFC, before requesting a release from the promotion. He signed with Bellator in 2017 and went 2-0, before informing Bellator of his retirement earlier this month.