UFC president Dana White confirmed Thursday that the Montreal-based MacDonald, who had been in the 170-pound title on-deck circle, will have to watch from the sidelines while newly crowned 170-pound champion (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler meets former title-holder Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks for a third time.
"That's what's going to happen," White told reporters. "Robbie and Rory just fought (at UFC 167 in November, 2013 when Lawler won a split decision). We just feel like the trilogy makes sense, to do the third fight between these two (Lawler and Hendricks)."
A source said the Montreal show is expected to be UFC 186 on April 25. The March date that had been expected for Montreal appears to be going to Dallas, which is expected to host UFC 185.
Hendricks won a unanimous decision at UFC 171 last March to claim the title vacated by Montreal's Georges St-Pierre. Lawler won a rematch at UFC 181 in December, taking the title from Hendricks by split decision.
Prior to UFC 181, White said MacDonald would fight the winner for the title with the bout taking place in Canada.
Now it appears the 25-year-old MacDonald will have to face another opponent first. Should he win, White said he would "probably" get a crack at the champion.
April in Montreal would likely work for MacDonald, who last fought in October when he stopped veteran Tarec (Sponge) Saffiedine in the third round in Halifax.
Montreal has been waiting a while for its seventh UFC show.
When the UFC announced its 2014 Canadian schedule last January, UFC 181 was slated for Dec. 6 at the Bell Centre. But the Montreal date was later pushed back into 2015.
A Sept. 27 Toronto show, slated to be UFC 178, was shifted to Las Vegas.
The UFC has announced three to five shows in Canada in 2015 but has yet to flesh out the schedule.
Toronto, Montreal and Calgary were identified as target cities for Canada. The UFC didn't say which other Canadian cities might be considered although Hamilton, London, Moncton, Ottawa, St. John's, Saskatoon and Windsor have all been touted as venues for possible future televised shows.
A UFC official said Thursday that the Montreal show is a go, likely in April.
The UFC plans 45 fight cards this year: 13 pay-per-view shows and 32 televised Fight Night cards.
St. Pierre, meanwhile, remains on hiatus. White said the fighter, who has been rehabbing a knee injury suffered training during a timeout from the sport, had reached out but only to text him a happy New Year.