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Girl power! Ilima-Lei Macfarlane loves all the ‘bad ass women’ of Bellator 201

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane interview

Bellator 201: “Macfarlane vs. Lara” takes place at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., tomorrow night (Fri., June 29, 2018), featuring a main event between undefeated women’s Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (7-0) against another tough challenger in Alejandra Lara (7-1).

Macfarlane has been on a steady roll ever since her professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in 2015, and is arguably the reason that Bellator introduced a women’s Flyweight title — her record of dominance demanded greater prominence. She achieved that recognition by submitting Emily Ducote in the fifth round to claim the inaugural title at Bellator 186 last year. Meanwhile, it is perhaps unusual that Alejandra Lara is challenging for a world title in only her second Bellator fight, but “Azul” put her name in the mix with a dominant win over Lena Ovchynnikova at Bellator 190, giving the promotion an exciting new fighter in the division who could hopefully test Macfarlane’s skills. recently spoke with Macfarlane about making her first title defense in the main event in Temecula this weekend and how her life has changed since becoming a world champion.

“Hmm ... Definitely a lot more public appearances, and photo shoots and stuff like that, sponsors and everything. I’ve been kept very busy in that aspect. Oh, and my inner circle has grown a little smaller, which is nice. Obviously, there’s going to be people coming out of the woodwork going, ‘Hey!! Remember me?’ But I know who my close circle is.”

Macfarlane also told me that she had to find new metaphorical mountains after reaching the summit of a peak she had been dedicated to climbing for so long.

“You know I’m gonna be totally honest with you — it was hard finding motivation after my last fight. I think it was a combination of the post fight blues, and I wasn’t sure (what to do). I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve accomplished my goal — now what?’ So it was a pretty stagnant two months after the fight where I was just like a zombie like, ‘Okay, I don’t know ... what do I do now?’”

Once Lara was announced as her opponent for Bellator 201 all of the focus and motivation came roaring back to Macfarlane in an instant.

“The minute I got the call where I had something tangible, like I actually had a fight booked, then that’s when I kicked my ass into gear again. I was like, ‘Alright, here we go!’ It is hard to find the motivation if you don’t have an opponent, you don’t have a name or anything to really work toward.”

With that in mind Macfarlane’s goal now is not to get to the top, but to prove she deserves to stay at the top after the long journey there.

“Yup, that is the goal! You know what they say — you’re not really a champion until you defend it, so ... I guess I won’t really consider myself a real champion unless I win on June 29th.”

Even though this is only Lara’s second fight in Bellator, Macfarlane says she’s not shocked to see her getting a title shot.

“I wasn’t surprised. You know there are a handful of girls in the division who I thought were worthy of getting a title shot, and on paper me and her are pretty evenly matched. You know she’s 7-1, I’m 7-0, we both are from very good camps with high-level female training partners. She’s from Lobo (Gym) in Guadalajara, Mexico. They have female fighters in UFC, Invicta, Combate Americas ... a lot of big promotions. She has a lot of good training partners.”

In addition, Macfarlane admits she was impressed by what she saw in Lara’s first Bellator fight and is looking forward to the match.

“She did have a very good debut against one of the veterans of the sport and of Bellator and she ended up finishing her, so I thought it made sense. I’m excited! I’ve never faced someone with her style before, and as you all know, styles make fights. It will be very interesting to see how my style matches up with hers.”

Although Lara’s style of striking and ground work may be unfamiliar, Macfarlane will have a familiar feeling in facing a taller opponent, giving up 3-4 inches in height to Lara.

“I’ve only had two opponents who were either my height or shorter and the rest were all taller. Yeah, the taller they are the harder they fall.”

Macfarlane is incredibly dangerous when they fall (four submissions in her last five fights), but concedes that Lara will be a very tough nut to crack.

“She’s also very flexible and athletic because she is an aerial acrobat athlete, so it’s going to be tough to do any type of joint manipulation on her. So yeah, I might have to finish it with a choke. You can’t really squirm out of a choke. You can out of an armbar, but yeah, I think I might have to go with the choke.”

You can tell from listening to her that Macfarlane is psyched up about this fight in general, not to mention the strong female representation on Bellator 201 as a whole.

“Yeah, I was so stoked, and the fact there are four women’s fights total on the [undercard], and then two are on the main card, including the main event, so I was ecstatic when I heard that. I’m all about girl power! It doesn’t matter if these girls could be my potential opponents in the future — I think it’s great when as women we all support each other. Interestingly enough, I know pretty much all of the girls who are fighting on the card. We all have a connection somehow or we’ve met each other or we’ve had conversations. So I really love this whole girl power, strong woman vibe that we get on this next card, and I am totally thrilled that Bellator is not only highlighting their female talent, but they trust us or they recognize that we’re bad ass enough. Yeah let’s have them be the main event, let’s have these girls take up half of the main card, so I think that’s incredible.”

It should be an incredibly fun card this weekend, and it’s free on Paramount Network anyway, so there’s no reason not to watch the “Ilimanator” get hers along with all of the other bad ass women of Bellator.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 201: “Macfarlane vs. Lara” resides here at 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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