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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane a roller coaster of emotion before her fight with Kate Jackson

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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane interview

Bellator 236: “Macfarlane vs. Jackson” takes place tomorrow night (Sat., Dec. 21, 2019) at Neil S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, streaming exclusively on DAZN at 9 p.m. ET. Undefeated women’s Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) is looking for another emotional title defense in front of her biggest fans at home at the expense of Kate Jackson (11-3-1).

“She is beauty, she is grace” and she’ll punch you in the face. Macfarlane may be best known for her devastating submission victories (60 percent), but as her last fight with Veta Arteaga showed, striking is an ever improving part of her game. Finishing a fight via doctor’s stoppage may not satisfy bloodthirsty fans, but it’s just as valid as making someone tap out on the mat.

She will definitely need to “slice and dice” against Jackson. With only one loss in her last nine bouts, Jackson is a durable and classically-trained English fighter who excels at striking, scoring 55 percent of her wins (six of 11) by knockout. While Macfarlane’s obvious strengths lead you to believe she’ll look for a submission, never rule out a stand up war. recently chatted with Macfarlane about returning to Hawaii for another title defense and how she feels Jackson is her equal when it comes to the ground game.

“I’ve been saying that she has the best ground game in the division next to me. Super solid BJJ background. Yeah she really likes to do no gi, so yeah I think if anybody’s going to test me on the ground it’s going to be Kate Jackson.”

Even though Jackson might be a test for her on the ground, that doesn’t mean Macfarlane is any less confident that the ultimate result will be in her favor.

“Yeah, you know, stylistically wise you know like I do go after the finishes and the submissions. That’s a testament to my 10th Planet background, my head coach Richie Martinez — ‘Boogeyman’ — you know he’s always embedded that into me to always be on the hunt for the finish. That’s where Kate and I differ stylistically on the ground is that you don’t really see her going for the finish too often. Again with that said we’ll find out whose submission game is better.”

After a doctor’s stoppage in her last title defense, Macfarlane proved she goes for the finish with more than just submissions. There may be more to her fight with Veta Arteaga, though, than any of us know.

“There were a lot of circumstances surrounding that fight that a lot of people don’t know about. Considering those circumstances I’m like ‘Alright, I’m a bad ass bitch. I fucking finished it.’ At first I was like ‘I didn’t think that my performance was very good’ and then I re-watched the fight. After learning about a lot of stuff I was like ‘Oh! I didn’t do as bad as I thought I did, and I still sent her to the hospital.’ To everybody that watched it that didn’t know what was going on, yeah it looked like Veta was testing me — but you know she tests everybody that she fights with. I mean if Kate were to fight her I wonder what would happen as well.”

And just like that we have a mystery on our hands! I had to pry deeper into the can of worms that Macfarlane just opened, but she seemed reluctant to reveal anything further.

“Oh no, you guys, maybe you should ask Veta about that one — see what she says.”

It seems as though someone already did. The closest that exists to an answer is that Arteaga felt her heart wasn’t into it. The reasons aren’t clear, but what is clear is that Macfarlane is ready to be emotionally overwhelmed by her return to Hawaii.

“It’s definitely built up. It’s pretty much when I land in Hawaii, that’s when everything floods me, just that feeling of love and support — it’s so amazing. Of course I would love to fight in Hawaii as often as I can, but the reality is that I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to do that every time, because it’s so intense! Yeah once a year is good for me.”

Macfarlane can’t guarantee how the fight will end, but she can say what will happen after it ends.

“Oh I for sure am going to be crying. That’s a guarantee! It’s not tough to focus (though) because I’m like so used to it already that I cry every fight. It’s just part of the routine at this point. Yeah, so I’ve never had an issue with it.”

If that’s routine for her at this point, is it also routine to deal with the emotional pull of being at home once she steps off the plane? Macfarlane said her weight cut breaks through it all.

“Yes, I’ll feel all the love and support, and then I’ll start getting super annoyed and irritated. Then I have to take a deep breath, and I just have to remember, that everybody is just excited and they just love you. Then I have to, you know, show my gratitude, and then everything’s good! {*laughing*} Yeah it’s a process definitely with the weight cut. When you’re a little bit low on calories and you still have to do all of your fight week complications and everything, it definitely can be taxing at times. Again it’s part of the routine at this point, I’m ready for it, I just want to get this show on the road.”

Everyone is ready for it at this point. What final advice would she give Kate Jackson before getting on this roller coaster of emotion with her?

“Just bring it girl! I respect you a lot for taking this fight in Hawaii, and you’re totally still invited to the luau no matter the outcome of the fight.”

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 236: “Macfarlane vs. Jackson” resides here at all weekend 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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