Ilima-Lei Macfarlane picked up a close split decision win over Japan’s Kana Watanabe in a grappling-heavy affair in the Bellator 295 co-main event on Saturday.
“The Iliminator” also earned herself the next shot at women’s flyweight champion Liz Carmouche, who happens to be a former friend and training partner of the Hawaiian star. Another chance at gold could mark a sort of fairytale ending to the ex-champ’s career, as Macfarlane has openly discussed retirement over the past year or so.
There’s one thing that might extend her fighting journey, however.
“Uncle Scott— we want to do a freakin’ grand prix. Now that you guys are done with the bantamweights, congrats Patchy, let’s do it!” Macfarlane (13-2) exclaimed after Saturday’s event in Honolulu, Hawaii. “We haven’t done a women’s grand prix in any division, and I think it just makes sense that the flyweight division is the way to go. And I’ve been calling for one since 2019 I think.”
And so yes, tacking an extra year to 18 months on to her career would be acceptable to Macfarlane, if Bellator CEO Scott Coker opted to build such a tournament. Despite her retirement talk.
“I would be down. A million dollars is pretty sweet,” Macfarlane admitted. “To be honest, I’ve been thinking about retirement more seriously, because I do want to start a family soon. But a million dollars sounds pretty cool, so I could put baby making on hold for that. I would definitely extend.”
Macfarlane also noted that she should have broached the subject in the cage, following her win over Watanabe. “That would be super-cool. Uncle Scott, let’s do a grand prix. I should have called that out on the mic, but I was staring at Liz. Let’s do a grand prix!”
While ahead of Bellator 295, Macfarlane had suggested the fight would not be her last, internally, it was another story. The Hawaiian revealed that “in my head, I was like ‘this could me the last time.’ My family would kill me, but ‘this could be the last time if I don’t get my hand raised.'”
“I think that was even more of a huge relief when I did [get my hand raised], but also like a ‘dang, I gotta keep doing this. Alright, I won. Gotta keep going.'”
One thing appeared clear Saturday: whether she retires after her next fight, presumably for the Bellator women’s flyweight championship, or two years on following a grand prix, Macfarlane has her fire back. And her health.
“I’m really excited to be healthy. I’m motivated right now,” stated Macfarlane. “I say that now, my adrenaline’s going, I’m sure when I get back home I’m going to be like ‘yeah, break time!’ But I need to stay motivated, especially because the title could very well be next. I need to stay focused and just stick to the plan. Just keep going.”
Watch the full Bellator 295 post-fight press conference with Ilima-Lei Macfarlane above.