Rory MacDonald and Firas Zahabi - UFC 145 WorkoutsUFC 158 lost its original co-headliner this week after welterweight Rory MacDonald went down with a neck injury while training for his tilt with Carlos Condit. While a sport as physical as Mixed Martial Arts is bound to produce more than a few bumps and bruises in the gym considering how hard fighters train, MacDonald in particular seems to spend a good deal of time on the shelf, also withdrawing before bouts at UFC 140 and UFC 152 based on afflictions sustained in the friendly confines of TriStar MMA.

Head coach Firas Zahabi recently spoke with MMAJunkie about the issue and expressed concern about his star student’s prospects unless something changes in the way the 23-year old prepares for his match-ups.

“He trains too hard. I tell him all the time,” said Zahabi. “I lecture him all the time: You’ve got to go slow and steady, and gradually increase the intensity closer to the fight. The body can only take so much.”

“And don’t forget, he started very young,” Zahabi added, alluding to MacDonald’s professional debut at the age of 16. “That’s one of the side effects of athletes that start when they’re young. They have a young body with a lot of miles.”

Zahabi continued on, showing confidence in MacDonald’s maturity and the perspective he’d likely gained after yet another run in with the injury bug.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to learn the hard way, and I think Rory is starting to understand. I had a long talk with him, and I told him he has to respect his body and how his body feels,” Zahabi concluded, stating he wanted to see MacDonald make his return in a smart/safe way even if it meant an extended break from competition.

MacDonald is expected to need a month off before resuming his regular schedule. Then again, if Zahabi gets his way, there may be nothing “regular” about it with a fresh approach to fighting focused on maximizing results rather than risking the fighter’s long term future.