Canadian welterweight Rory MacDonald gets new opponent for PFL debut

Rory (Red King) MacDonald takes part in an open workout. (Justin Tang/CP)

Canadian welterweight Rory (Red King) MacDonald has a new opponent for his Professional Fighters League debut April 29.

The PFL confirmed Friday that Curtis (Curtious) Millender (18-6-0) is replacing David (Bulldawg) Michaud for the 2021 season.

MacDonald and Michaud were slated to meet at PFL 2 in Atlantic City, N.J. But the 32-year-old Michaud (18-6-0) announced Thursday on social media that tests had revealed a congenital heart defect.

“Fighting puts me at risk for an aortic dissection — a tear in the aorta. That would be fatal under almost all circumstances. For this reason I will not be able to fight Rory MacDonald on April 29th, and unless anything changes, ever again,” he wrote.

Michaud reached the 2019 PFL welterweight final, but was stopped in the second round by Ray Cooper III with US$1 million on the line.

The 33-year-old Millender has lost three of his last four MMA fights. He won his first three in the UFC before losing the next two and moving to Bellator where he split his last two outings.

MacDonald, a former Bellator champion and UFC contender at 170 pounds, signed with the PFL in December 2019 but had to wait for his debut after the promotion cancelled its 2020 season due to the pandemic.

MacDonald (21-6-1) last fought in October 2019 when he lost his Bellator welterweight title to Douglas (The Phenom) Lima, the man he had won it off in January 2018.

The 31-year-old MacDonald is a native of Kelowna, B.C., who now calls Montreal home.

The Professional Fighters League, formerly known as the World Series of Fighting, works on a set schedule unlike other MMA promotions.

The 2021 campaign, featuring six weight classes, starts April 23 with each fighter having two bouts during the promotion’s “regular season.”’ The first half of the schedule takes place April 23, 29 and May 6 with the second half set for June 10, 17 and 25.

Fighters earn performance-based points, with three points for a win, plus bonus points for knockouts and submissions. They are seeded in standings for their weight class based on their point totals.

The top eight in each division advance to the single-elimination playoffs in October, where fighters must fight twice and win twice in the same night to advance to the finals. The 2021 PFL World Championship is slated for New Year’s Eve with the winners each earning $1 million for being crowned PFL champions.

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