HONOLULU – For Bellator women’s flyweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Saturday’s Bellator 213 represented the realization of a dream, defending her title on Hawaiian soil. But it also meant trying desperately to keep her emotions in check.
“Every single time I calmed myself down, then something else happened,” Macfarlane told MMAjunkie following her win over Valerie Letourneau. “It really didn’t end until the cage door closed, really. That’s when it was like, ‘All right, no more crying – you’ve got to get this fight over with first.’”
Macfarlane (9-0 MMA, 8-0 BMMA) and Letourneau (10-7 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) faced off in the headlining bout of Saturday’s DAZN-streamed event from Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.
The atmosphere was electric inside the sold-out venue, and Macfarlane’s entrance to the cage was memorable, indeed, accompanied by a crew in native Hawaiian dress and backed by a photo montage of her childhood growing up in the Hawaiian Islands.
It was a beautiful scene, but one that brought the expectations of a Macfarlane win to a fever pitch in the building. Fortunately, she was able to deliver.
After some back-and-forth action on the feet, Macfarlane got the fight to the floor in the third round. As she established a dominant position and moved to the back, the entire crowd stood and cheered, bringing an incredible amount of energy with them.
Macfarlane said she felt the roar in the cage, even as she was securing the submission finish.
“They know that jiu-jitsu is my game, and I kind of had her in a position that B.J. Penn made famous where he traps the arm down with his leg,” Macfarlane explained. “I was initially going for a triangle, and you know honestly, we drill this all the time at 10th Planet San Diego – my coach ‘Boogey,’ Richie Martinez – we do this every single week. It’s called live drill Mondays. We just do it from the back take, and honestly, that is my (expletive).
“I knew that I was going to finish her once I got into that position. All credit goes to 10th Planet San Diego, 10th Planet Freaks, my jiu-jitsu teachers.”
Macfarlane’s composure in the cage was impressive, indeed. It capped off an important week for the local MMA scene, with a major promotion visiting Hawaii for the first time in 10 years. “The Ilimanator” admits it was a storybook ending but knows things could have gone a different way and says she’s appreciative of the result.
“Just relief,” Macfarlane said when asked to describe her emotions. “I think everything couldn’t be more perfect right now. Even watching some of the prelim fights and seeing some of the Hawaii boys and all the local fighters throwing down and just representing – like, everything has just been perfect, more than I could imagine. So I’m relieved. I’m so happy, and it’s time to party.”
Macfarlane’s next move isn’t clear just yet. The undefeated fighter has earned her past four wins by submission and has now defended her belt twice successfully.
Challengers will certainly come forward, but Macfarlane admits it’s going to be tough to top her experience in Honolulu.
“Probably like having a baby or something is, I think, the only thing that can top this feeling,” Macfarlane said. “I don’t know. This was my dream from the beginning, was just to fight at home, and it exceeded all my expectations, so I really don’t know how to top this as far as my fighting career goes. Oh, I know, opening up 10th Planet Oahu, having my own gym over here. That will be it.
“I’m so happy that all eyes was on Hawaii tonight, and we all won. This is a win for everybody.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
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