Bellator 201: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane “Super Stoked” to Top Card Full of Female Fighters

Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei MacFarlane makes her first title defense at Bellator 201 this weekend — and is thrilled to see women well represented on the card.

Tasked with headlining the first card out from Bellator’s landmark 200th event, women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is in the spotlight once again. The Hawaiian broke onto the MMA scene in a big way last year, improving her record to 7-0 and capturing Bellator MMA’s inaugural 125lb women’s title in the process. So what’s next for ‘The Ilimanator?’ A title defense against former aerial gymnast Alejandra Lara.

If Lara (7-1), a relative unknown, seems an odd choice, there’s just a wee bit of marketing at work: the Colombian, and Hawaiian Macfarlane both have solid home town support. Which makes her a calculated choice for Macfarlane’s first title defense.

What’s actually more interesting about Bellator 201 is the prominence of women on the card. Not since UFC 193 (when Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzejczyk served as a double bill at the top) has a card been so stacked with female talent.

Macfarlane addressed that topic, training partners, and more speaking to the media ahead of the fight this Friday in Temecula, CA.

On training with some of the top women in the division at 10th Planet San Diego, the champion noted that “I always say that I have the best training partners in the world, and not just the pros.”

“Liz [Carmouche] and Pearl [Gonzalez], we’re all flyweights, so it’s perfect,” she explained. “And we all bring very different games to the table, so it’s good for all of us to be training with all these different styles. But even our amateur girls team is incredible. Even if they’re not at that level of skill and technique, they show up, man, like they’ll throw down with us.”

Asked by Cageside Press about headlining a card that has eight women featured on it, Ilima-Lei told us that “it’s awesome.”

“Of course I’m all about girl power. Hashtag girl power. So when I saw that there were eight women on the card, I was super stoked,” she said. “Half of the main card is women, which never happens I don’t think. And we’re headlining it.”

“I pretty much know all of the girls on a personal level. I’ve trained with several of them,” she continued. “Tiani [Valle] is from Hawaii. I’m cool with Keri, I’m cool with Valerie, I’m a huge fan of Kristina Warhorse. Even my opponent, we just met each other in person for the first time, we were like wearing matching shirts, it was funny, we hugged each other. It’s really cool seeing all the other women on the card supporting each other. There’s no weird vibes or catty things. I’ve never seen it, so I think it’s really cool.”

Macfarlane also commented that she found out about her nomination as female fighter of the year at the 10th annual World MMA Awards via the media, when an article was posted via Twitter.

Catch more from Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, including discussion of her Illiminator scholarship, and competing in BJJ, in the full Bellator 201 pre-fight press scrum above. The card airs live starting at 9PM EST on the Paramount Network. MacFarlane faces Alejandra Lara in the main event.