Bellator 201: Flyweight Champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane Reflects on Title Defense, Rejects UFC Idea

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane reflected on a big night at Bellator 201 following her first title defense Friday night — and put to rest any notion of her jumping ship to the UFC.

Bellator women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane defended her title for the first time Friday night — and did it in style. The main event scrap at Bellator 201 turned out to be a highly entertaining affair. Challenger Alejandra Lara proved game, willing to stand and trade, while being extremely agile on the ground. In the end, Macfarlane caught her in an arm-bar, but time seemed to slow as again and again, Lara refused to tap.

Once the finish finally came, however, it was something of a relief for the ‘Iliminator’ — who told the media post-fight that “I got it off my shoulders. I did it. I did it in a jiu-jitsu fashion. I represented my 10th Planet roots. I’m stoked, it was amazing.”

Macfarlane says she knew all along that Alejandra Lara was going to be a durable foe, despite some criticism of the Colombian being rushed to a title shot. “I called it from the beginning. I was like ‘this girl’s so tough, she’s double-jointed,'” the champion said.

Reflecting on the bout, Macfarlane recalled that “even when I switched to the side, Lara didn’t tap. I was like ‘aww s***.’ So we just kind of hung out for a little bit, and I was trying to look behind me at the clock, couldn’t find the clock, I was like ‘how much time do I have left?'” At that point, however, the Hawaiian was committed. “I think it was more, if I just kept chipped away, kept chipping away, that eventually it was going to happen.”

In the ongoing narrative of MMA, the end of one fight always leads to another. The question of who’s next is a fairly simple one for Ilima-Lei, however. “I think it’s Valerie [Letourneau]” she said. “I said it from the beginning, the winner of my fight was going to get the winner of the Letourneau and Warhorse fight.”

Where is the bigger question. Queried about a possible spot at Bellator’s tentpole event on September 29, or the chance to headline in her native Hawaii, there was no hesitation from Macfarlane. “Hand’s down, headlining in Honolulu. It’s cool. September’s way too soon too.”

“”Why would I go to the UFC? You’re seeing more and more fighters come from the UFC over to Bellator.”

“I like to take a little hiatus for a few months. Go travel somewhere off the grid,” she explained. “September would be an amazing opportunity, but like I said that’s a little soon for my taste, and I would much rather headline a Hawaii card. Hand’s down.”

Getting back to Friday’s main event against Alejandra Lara, Macfarlane told Cageside Press that “I didn’t really go into this even knowing what she was going to do, so I was kind of just ready for anything.” Her corner was key in getting her focused. They “yelled over ‘she doesn’t like getting hit, she doesn’t like it.’ And I could tell,” said Macfarlane. “She would try to do a little leg kick, and I would step in with an overhand left. I hit her a few times and she backed up, and was hesitant after that. So I knew that as long as I kept throwing, she could hit me with anything, but my shots were landing harder than she was.”

Something that stood out was the camaraderie between the women booked on the Bellator 201 card. Macfarlane confirmed there was no issues between her and Lara at any point during the week, just good vibes.

“I thought she was adorable. I think she was so cool and so cute,” she said of the Colombian. “We have a really good relationship with her team, the Grassos. It was nothing but good vibes this entire fight week. I was so happy she did bring a little bit of her culture in, because obviously I always bring my culture in.”

“So it was very cool, a cultural exchange, which I think it beautiful, that’s what I live for.” It would be ideal to see more of that, Macfarlane said. “I wish more fighters would be like that, nothing but good vibes and support each other. No animosity at all whatsoever.”

One question that pops up frequently with Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is a possible jump to the UFC. It’s not something that interests one of Bellator’s newest stars, however. “Everybody always asks me ‘are you going to go to the UFC? What’s your plan?'” she told us. “Why would I go to the UFC? You’re seeing more and more fighters come from the UFC over to Bellator. Not just any fighters, like high profile fighters, Hall of Fame fighters are coming over to Bellator. I think that’s saying a lot about where our organization is going. Why would I want to leave the people who believed in me and signed me from the beginning?”

They way the flyweight champion sees it, she may not have ever reached the level she has in other companies. “I don’t think I would have even got a second look from other promotions,” she finished. “Bellator was the one, Scott was the one that believed in me. I’m Bellator through and through.”