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Ilima-Lei MacFarlane’s recipe for success - work hard, drink beer, and party with your friends!

Ilima-Lei MacFarlane interview

Bellator 213 “MacFarlane vs. Letourneau” takes place Saturday, December 15, 2018 at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. Undefeated Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (8-0) faces former UFC contender Valerie Letourneau (10-6) in a bout with implications beyond the title for both women.

For Letourneau a win would be a chance to rewrite the story of her career. To this day many fans remember her best for going five rounds with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, proving her toughness in a gritty performance but also being handed a lopsided decision loss where only two judges gave her even one round of the five in the fight.

MacFarlane on the other hand has had no problem smoking her way through every opponent Bellator has put in front of her, with 71% of her Bellator wins (five of seven) coming via submission. History will record she was dominant, but will it also record that she was dominant against a resilient former UFC fighter who is also great at takedowns?

Today Ilima-Lei MacFarlane answers those questions and more in a MMA Mania exclusive interview before her title defense on home soil — one she’s VERY anxious to get done.

“Believe it or not, I just want to get this over with. {*laughing*} I mean like, I’m definitely feeling the pressure as it draws near but I’m also getting more excited. It’s finally here, so let’s do it.”

Some of that anxiety may relate to being the hometown champion, but some may also come down to knowing just what kind of opponent Valerie Letourneau can be.

“I think that this is the fight that I need at this point in my career. What I mean by that is that I’m ready for this next level type of opponent. Basically I’ve only fought girls that have had probably around the same experience as me — the same number of fights or years of training. Valerie is my first opponent who is a veteran of the sport, and she has twice as many fights as I do, and probably 20 plus years of experience. This is a next level fight for me, but I’m ready, and this is exactly what type of opponent that I want.”

Letourneau earned her shot the same night as MacFarlane’s last title defense, so the buzz was already in the air after she dispatched Kristina Williams about who might be next.

“Yeah that was a really interesting fight to watch. One thing (is) whenever I think about or whenever I get intimidated about the level of experience that Valerie has, I remember that Kristina had like two weeks notice, and that was her third professional fight and she was able to go toe to toe. Even though she lost that fight, Kristina is amazing. I just remember like ‘Hey man! If Kristina can go out there and do it and do the dance with Valerie, so can I.’ So I’m ready for it, I’m excited, and I’m definitely going to test myself against one of the world’s best.”

If that pressure wasn’t already enough, add the weight of being home around your family and friends yet NOT getting to hang out with them because a big fight is coming up.

“You know it’s kind of like I just want to celebrate and party already {*laughing*} and enjoy being home without any pressure or stress. I always do this before my fights — like always plan what I’m going to do after the fight. So I plan trips, I plan parties, so that’s what I mean by wanting to get it over with. I just want to relax with my family back home.”

How does Ilima-Lei MacFarlane plan to unwind then after Bellator 213 is in the books?

“Well I’m definitely going to have a beer as soon as I’m done fighting. Probably a beer and some creme brûlée. That’s my favorite! I definitely want some type of sugary desert.”

(Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it. I drink beer and eat dark chocolate together.) There’s been no time for empty calories in training though. MacFarlane’s been hard on the grind.

“This camp was really good actually. There wasn’t any injuries. Probably the biggest difference was that my weight was really good. This camp was actually the lightest that I’ve ever walked around at. That definitely was a really big stress off of my shoulders. I know fight week there’s going to be a lot more distractions since I’m fighting back home, and so the fact that I don’t have to worry about my weight is really really nice.”

It’s not like anybody has ever accused the champ of being out of shape.

To hear MacFarlane tell it though she’s stronger and more well toned than ever before.

“Like I know that (Letourneau) is taller and longer than me, but I’ve always felt really strong for our weight class. I wasn’t worried too much about putting on any size with her, but I do feel really strong and a lot of my teammates have been commenting that I look really ripped for this fight. I think my body fat percentage went down and I did put on muscle unintentionally for this camp. Yeah that’s nice but it wasn’t a focus — it was a byproduct.”

MacFarlane also has a message for everybody out there in women’s MMA who isn’t a size zero — embrace being well rounded in the sport AND in your calories to be a success.

“You know I’ve always had this theory that my cardio is really good and I’m able to go into the later rounds because I have a little energy reserve. A lot of times if you watch fighters who are super ripped or do have a lot of muscles, it’s harder for them to oxygenate as the fight goes on. So I appreciate that I do have a little beer belly going into my fights because I think it helps me.”

If Ilima-Lei MacFarlane wasn’t already one of the most likable champions in Bellator, I think every fight fan with a beer in their hand on Saturday night now adores her ten times more.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “MacFarlane vs. Letourneau” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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