EXCLUSIVE | Ilima-Lei MacFarlane welcoming another title defense in her second home

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Ilima-Lei MacFarlane
Image: Bellator on Instagram

There is no question the emotions were running high for Ilima-Lei MacFarlane’s last fight. MacFarlane got to defend her Bellator flyweight title at home in Hawaii where she defeated Valerie Letourneau in the third-round by submission. The win capped off an emotional fight week for MacFarlane.

Now, she is set for yet another title defense this Saturday when she takes on Veta Arteaga at Bellator 220 in San Jose, California. Although Hawaii was MacFarlane’s real homecoming, she lives and trains in California which makes this yet another fight ‘at home’.

“I love it. The fight before Hawaii was in Temecula which is right in San Diego’s backyard. I love how I am able to fight on the west coast which is just a plane ride away from Hawaii,” MacFarlane said to BJPENN.com. “I’m going to have a lot of support in San Jose. I think it is really cool, and we are bringing the Hawaiian wave to San Jose.”

Ahead of this fight, there has been some doubt about whether Veta Arteaga deserves a shot at MacFarlane’s title. Comments on social media and questions during scrums have suggested Arteaga isn’t on the champion’s level. However, MacFarlane herself doesn’t agree and believes Arteaga deserves the shot.

“Oh, that just shows that they are casual fans. They don’t know who she is. If they have followed her career you know she is in your face, aggressive, and doesn’t back down,” she said of her opponent. “All of her fights have been nothing but barn burners. They are all exciting, she always brings it. The fights she has lost have been controversial. For all those people who think this is going to be a walk in the park for me, you are probably a casual MMA fan.”

Although Ilima-Lei MacFarlane has been on a recent tear, some credit has to go to her training camp at 10th planet jiu-jitsu. There, MacFarlane gets to train with the likes of Liz Carmouche and Pearl Gonzalez among others. However, for this camp, MacFarlane didn’t have either of them, but she’s more than confident she has what it takes to win.

“I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I talked to the out of town female fighters who train with us. Whenever I talk to them they go, ‘oh we don’t have any girls at our gym.’ So, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to not only have girl training partners but high-level training partners,” the flyweight champion explained. “It makes a world of difference. I’m super fortunate to have an incredible team. But, in a matter of fact, this camp I didn’t have Liz as she just fought in Prague, so she had her break afterward. I also didn’t have Pearl Gonzalez because she was doing a camp in Thailand. Even though I didn’t have those top-two female fighters everyone else totally stepped up. There was not a shortage of bodies or high-level fighters for this camp.”

Ultimately, after a strong training camp, MacFarlane is more than ready for fight night. She believes this fight is going to one of two ways, but she is more than confident she leaves San Jose with her belt.

“I see it going one of two ways. I picture her coming out guns blazing like she always does,” MacFarlane said. “If that is the case then she is going to leave her self open for the takedown which I am sure she is going to want to avoid. If she does come out guns blazing like she normally does, I see the fight being over within the first three rounds with me taking her down and finishing her on the ground. However, I also see it going to the judges if she decides to not push forward and try and stay on the outside and pick her shots. Then I see it going to the scorecards. We will see.”

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 4/23/2019.




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