VANCOUVER - Rory MacDonald says he doesn't feel any added pressure to carry Canada's mixed martial arts torch in Georges St-Pierre's absence.
In fact, his mentor's hiatus from the UFC makes McDonald's quest to reach the top of the welterweight division a little easier.
"It opens things up for me to get to where I want to be," MacDonald said this week. "I've learned a lot from Georges. No extra pressure, I've just got to be myself."
It remains to be seen if St-Pierre will return to the sport he dominated, but the 24-year-old MacDonald — who goes by the nickname "Ares" — is intent on continuing his climb this Saturday at UFC 174 when he takes on Tyron (The Chosen One) Woodley in the co-main event at Rogers Arena.
Both men have their sights set on Johny Hendricks' welterweight title, with MacDonald ranked as the No. 2 challenger and Woodley at No. 3.
Shy in front of the media glare, MacDonald said he just has to continue working on what has brought him to this point.
"I think people like me for who I am," said MacDonald, who was born in Quesnel, B.C., but now trains in Montreal. "I've gotten to the position I'm in because of being who I am — a couple stumbles along the way but I feel like I'm hitting my stride right now."
One of those stumbles actually came in Vancouver when MacDonald (16-2) lost at UFC 115 in June 2010 to Carlos Condit. His only other defeat came to Robbie Lawler in a split decision at UFC 167 in November, but MacDonald rebounded to beat Demian Maia in a split decision at UFC 170 in February.
"You pick and choose your spots. You play between defence and offence against other good fighters," said MacDonald. "I just had a great training camp. No injuries and things went great. I felt great in my sparrings and my techniques are sharp."
Woodley (13-2), a two-time All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, has just three UFC bouts under his belt, including a technical knockout victory over Condit at UFC 171 in March.
MacDonald said if he fights to his strengths against Woodley, he should come out on top.
"I know the techniques. They come out as instinct right now," said MacDonald. "I've trained them so much. So I've just got to go in there and do my thing.
"I'm ready for everything. Last time here was unbelievable, the response I got. If it's the same, more, or less I'll be ready."
In a era where athletes in all sports are constantly looking for an edge, MacDonald said he doesn't study video of his opponents before a fight, preferring to use his instincts.
"I've fought a lot of people in the past — never seen them, never heard of them and had to deal with their problems," he said. "I find it easier to do it like that, to react in the cage."
MacDonald is hoping for the same against Woodley on Saturday night.
"He's a great fighter. To beat him you have to be tricky and use good techniques," he said. "I feel very confident in my abilities and the solutions I have."