In interference-rich and noisy environment, wireless communication is often hampered by unreliable communication links. Recently, there has been active research on cooperative communication that improves the communication reliability by having a collection of radio terminals transmit signals in a cooperative way. This paper proposes a medium access control (MAC) algorithm, called Cooperative Diversity MAC (CD-MAC), which exploits the cooperative communication capability of the physical (PHY) layer to improve robustness in wireless ad hoc networks. In CD-MAC, each terminal proactively selects a partner for cooperation and lets it transmit simultaneously so that this mitigates interference from nearby terminals and thus improves the network performance. For practicability, CD-MAC is designed based on the widely adopted 802.11 MAC. For accurate evaluation, this study presents and uses a realistic reception model by taking bit error rate (BER), derived from Intersil HFA3861B radio hardware, and the corresponding frame error rate (FER) into consideration. System-level simulation study shows that CD-MAC significantly outperforms the original 802.11 MAC in terms of packet delivery ratio and end-to-end delay.