Champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is freaking out before Bellator 220, but that's a good thing

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane was not smiling when she walked through the door. It’s understandable why.

On her list of things to do this week: evaluate applicants for her scholarship, close on a house she’s bought, cut weight, and, oh yeah, defend her title.

Macfarlane, 29, set a new threshold for pressure last December when she beat Valerie Letourneau in front of a hometown crowd in Honolulu. This week’s tasks still got to her.

“I had a little meltdown inside the check-in room just now,” Macfarlane told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “My phone’s going off, I’m talking to three different people, and (a Bellator official) is like, ‘Can you do this interview?’ I’m like, ‘What the (expletive)! Can you please just let me breathe!”

In truth, Macfarlane likes the stress. She wouldn’t schedule so much otherwise. Her team believes she’s a bit crazy, but that’s just part of her process.

“I need something to give me a little bit of stress during camp,” Macfarlane said. “The fact that my camp was going so smoothly, like I didn’t have some frickin’ boyfriend to make me crazy the whole camp, so I needed something to freak out about. So it was the weight this time.”

A slower than expected cut gave Macfarlane the jolt she needed in the final weeks before the fight. Heading into Saturday’s bout against Veta Arteaga, an opponent she considers her most aggressive to date, Macfarlane’s got everything in line. All she needs to do is hit her mark and get ready for the fight.

On the mission statement posted above her bed, owning a house was the final goal. In pricey San Diego, that’s no small task, but a new contract put the dream within reach. Now that she’s about to sign on the dotted line, the natural question is what’s next.

“I might have to write a new mission statement,” she said.

There’s one she’s already got in mind, and that’s owning a business. Taking her cue from teammate Liz Carmouche, a one-time UFC bantamweight title challenger who runs a 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu gym in San Diego, Macfarlane wants to start her own affiliate in Hawaii.

“Setting up my future outside of fighting,” Macfarlane explained. “We have a shelf life as fighters. A lot of our coaches set us up for success post-fighting. It’s something that’s always been in the back of my head.”

There’s a lot competing for Macfarlane’s attention in the final days before the DAZN-streamed fight at SAP Center. A good chunk of her training has been conducted underwater at a fitness collective for the Underwater Torpedo League, a sport that appears to be a mix of football, water polo and soccer – under water.

Macfarlane said coaches called her a baby shark when she first tried it. Now, she’s a bull shark.

“And then we found out the SAP Center is called the ‘Shark Tank’,” she said, referring to the home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. “So it’s all synchronicity.”

After a few months of wrestling under water, Macfarlane said she can hold her breath for one minute at a time during the game. On land, she’s at 2:30. So whatever this week throws at her, she can hold out quite a while before she has to catch her breath.

For more on Bellator 220, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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