Despite a lot of attention being paid to a rematch with Veta Artega following their Bellator 220 fight, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is actually expecting to face the winner of Kristina Williams vs. Juliana Velasquez next.
Las Vegas, NV — Bellator women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane was on hand for the World MMA Awards 2019 in Las Vegas on Wednesday, where she was nominated for female fighter of the year. Not that she expected to win, mind you.
In a tough field including eventual winner Amanda Nunes, the ‘Iliminator’ pointed out that to win against such rugged competition, “I think it has to be held not during UFC [International] Fight Week. So I think it kind of has to take an entire overhaul of the system, but that’s not going to happen, so I don’t expect to win.”
She was quick to add, however, that she was not implying the system is rigged. “I’m not saying it has anything to do with what promotion you fight for. It’s a super tough category, and every single girl that was nominated 100% deserves it.”
Still, Macfarlane told Cageside Press that she wasn’t expecting anything, and was ready to sit back, relax, and since she wasn’t presenting this year, “get nice and toasty.”
Looking back at how far she has come in just a few years, Macfarlane told us that “It’s been crazy accelerated for sure, but I’m still the same island girl that you guys knew three years ago. I like to think that I haven’t changed. I’m still the same, it’s because of the people that I surround myself with. My family, my gym, my friends, they would be the first ones to bring me back down.”
And so she’s the same island girl “who likes to party, and likes to fight.” That love of fighting includes supporting her team, San Diego Combat Academy, and the next woman from the camp with a title opportunity: Liz Carmouche.
The former UFC bantamweight title contender has worked her way back to another title shot, against flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko at UFC Uruguay later this year.
“It’s definitely a team effort for sure. Liz has been my main training partner since the beginning of her career,” Macfarlane said. “Finally, finally she’s getting her opportunity. I think she’s one of the most incredible fighters, one of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever known. She is so focused for this fight, you can see it every single day. She’s 100% focused, 100% ready.”
“This is definitely a team affair,” she reiterated. “As soon as we even heard that this is a possibility, we looked up tickets to Uruguay. A bunch of us are going out for this fight.”
As for her own future, many expected it to be the rematch against Veta Artega, who pushed Macfarlane as hard as anyone at Bellator 220. At least until the Hawaiian opened up a nasty cut on the challenger with an elbow that led to the fight being stopped.
Macfarlane, however, isn’t expecting that rematch yet. “To be totally honest, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I actually think I’m going to get the winner of the Kristina Williams vs. Juliana Velasquez fight.”
That fight goes down July 12 in Oklahoma, at Bellator 224.
“A lot of people feel that I beat Veta decisively and while they’re like ‘you know she does deserve a rematch,’ I don’t think it’s necessarily an mediate rematch. So I think the rematch will for sure happen,” Macfarlane explained, but it’s “not going to be immediate.”
After all, “there’s other girls that do deserve a title shot.”