It’s impossible to discuss the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s bantamweight division without mentioning Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts professional fighter Michael McDonald as the consensus top contender for the interim belt, but McDonald already has one that he wears proudly — a tool belt.
When the 21-year-old Grace Davis High graduate and former Oakdale resident isn’t at Oakdale MMA, he’s hard at work in his self-built wood shop, where he and business partner Darrel Smith saw, carve and sand creations into quality pieces of furniture. Smith plays a big role in the business, from their work with raw lumber and sheets of plywood to the actual construction and finishing touches.
The business, dubbed A Better Cabinet, is the brainchild of McDonald and the result of a lifelong passion for woodwork. It’s what occupies the energetic slugger when he isn’t throwing punches at heavy practice bags or opponents’ faces.
Though McDonald brands his signature into everything he works on, he says his quality of work — not the fame of his fight career — is what makes his work stand out.
“I don’t want to make this money by people wanting a cabinet made by a fighter,” McDonald said. “I want to put that aside and make people a nice cabinet with an honest price that I think it is worth.
“I want people to pay for something that will outlive them.”
McDonald said the dream of woodworking for a living began in his youth, when he would help his grandfather create furniture in his garage. When his grandfather passed away when McDonald was 10, the vision didn’t die. As success in his fight career (McDonald is 15-1-0, 4-0 in the UFC) blossomed, McDonald realized he had the time and recourses to pursue his passion for woodwork.
Soon he had built his own shop and began turning out more quality work than he could use. The same determination that had made him one of the top bantamweight fighters on the planet had developed into a set of skills suited well for a carpenter.
“What makes me special in the UFC is that though people may be stronger, faster or have better reaction time, no one can use them the way I do and no one has the details and strategy that I have,” McDonald said. “My strength in the UFC is the same thing with woodworking, because though maybe I don’t have the most amazing tools possible, what makes me stand out is what I am able to do with cabinets and furniture.
“And it’s not just furniture. I want people to be able to call me with anything from a dog house, tree house, bird house to a towel rack, chess board or cutting board.”
McDonald can pull off pretty much any project that falls short of requiring special permits (like additions to a house). He said he uses his wide variety of woodworking skills to help his customers have the home they want.
“Very few people can do very high quality furniture and cabinets, because it is very different work,” McDonald said. “It’s similar but different, like comparing wrestling vs. jujitsu in MMA.”
An injury sustained during McDonald’s most recent bout, a first round knockout of MMA veteran Miguel Torres, forced the Oakdale fighter to undergo surgery on his hand. He is currently back in the gym to condition and prepare for his next fight, which is likely to come before the end of the year. McDonald said he will continue to work at the shop until two weeks before his fights.
A Better Cabinet takes projects on assignment through email contacts at email@example.com and also through calls made to McDonald’s business phone (209-996-8519).