Nineteen-year-old Modesto native and Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts Club fighter, Michael McDonald, has signed a three-fight contract with one of the premier fight leagues in the sport, World Extreme Cagefighting.
The WEC, owned by the same company (Zuffa) as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will award McDonald his Las Vegas debut at the Pearl at the Palms on Thursday, Nov. 11.
McDonald (10-1) is at the tail end of a six-week training regiment designed to help him reach peak physical condition for a three-round battle with wrestler Clint Godfrey (11-2).
The bantamweight (135 pounds) bout will be waged during a WEC 52 card that also features popular California striker Urijah Faber vs. Japan’s Takeya Mizugaki.
“This is the hardest I have trained and the most well-prepared I have ever been,” McDonald said. “I have yet to find someone on this planet who can stand in front of me, throw shots and stay up, so we will see what he chooses to do.”
McDonald is the first Oakdale MMA fighter to land a contract with a top-tier fight league, an opportunity neither he nor Last Stand Fight Team instructor Tom Theofanopoulos is taking lightly.
“Michael will be the first guy from this area, Modesto to Merced, to reach this level,” Theofanopoulos said. “I don’t think anyone at his weight is close to equaling his power.”
McDonald, a Brazilian Jujitsu brown belt, trains with his older brother Justin Smitely and younger brother Brad McDonald in the Oakdale MMA gym in the heart of the downtown area. Oakdale High graduates Bill Theofanopoulos, Martin Sandoval and Marcus Velasco have fought out of the same building.
“Oakdale is where I found home to be,” McDonald said. “I just fell in love with the attitude and skill level that you see in this gym.
“I am going to stay here as long as I am able.”
McDonald’s workouts include strength and conditioning sessions each morning, with technical training and cardiovascular work later in the day. He spars with three fresh partners for three five-minute rounds to increase endurance.
“Every time we train we try to make sure his training is way harder than anything he would face in the cage,” Theofanopoulos said. “There isn’t a position we haven’t worked, and I would say this is the best shape he has ever been in.”
McDonald is guaranteed three fights in the WEC, with chances at more fights and higher-paying purses if he sees victories.
He expects a good fight from Godfrey, but plans to end it quickly if the 10-year wrestling veteran decides to stay up and go toe-to-toe.
“I don’t see any way that Clint can beat Mike,” Theofanopoulos said. “We have covered all of our bases, and Mike is very confident right now.”