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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is ready to pop champagne with 50 Cent after Bellator 220

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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane interview

Bellator 220: “MacDonald vs. Fitch” takes place April 27, 2019, at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., airing exclusively on DAZN. The final first round fight of the Welterweight Grand Prix headlines as Rory MacDonald (20-5) and Jon Fitch (31-7-1, 1 NC) meet with MacDonald putting his Welterweight title on the line in the process. The co-main event will also feature a world title match from an undefeated champion. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (9-0) will take on Veta Arteaga (5-2) and the winner will walk away as Bellator MMA’s undisputed Flyweight champion.

Macfarlane’s been tested as champion twice now, successfully defending her crown against both Alejandra Lara and Valerie Letourneau. The ace of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu was able to wear down each opponent round by round until securing a tapout victory in round three. Arteaga is not going to let Macfarlane walk right through her to be a perfect 10-0. The Boise, Idaho based fighter has never been submitted in seven bouts, and as kickboxing champion Denise Kielholtz learned, she’ll make you pay for a mistake with a submission win of her own. recently chatted with “Ilimanator” Ilima-Lei Macfarlane about her next title defense in San Jose and the emotional roller coaster of her last defense at home in Hawaii.

“The first feeling I got was definitely relief, like ‘Holy crap, okay, I did it — thank goodness!’ But afterward when everything settled (down) it was gratitude. I was just so thankful for all of the love that I felt that night and all the support of everyone behind me and everyone in that arena. For sure an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”

Some people noted after watching her tears of joy in Honolulu that Macfarlane would’ve become a bigger household name if the fight hadn’t been exclusive to DAZN. Macfarlane sees it differently.

“We’re making that transition over to DAZN, and I was happy about it because I don’t have cable if I’m being totally honest. I thought that DAZN made it very accessible though. I think people just need to be a little more resourceful and figure out how to watch the fight and type into Google ‘How to watch Bellator.’”

Coincidentally, that’s something we write about here at MMA Mania. Macfarlane is by no means dismissive though of the idea that a bigger audience is always better.

“You wish just (that) a lot of people were able to see it. But I think that moment was set in stone — it was set in history, you know? It was an iconic moment, and you can still watch the playback, people find it on social media and everything. Bellator made sure to post not just a snippet of the walkout, but the entire walkout you know?”

Even though the fight happened four months ago, Macfarlane surprised me with a bit of news related to her ninth win.

“My dad JUST watched it last night. Oh my God, he’s my biggest fan, he really is. He’s so cute. He has never fought before in his life, but he likes to break down my opponent for me, and tell me what he thinks I should do in the fight. I just nod and smile (and) say ‘Thank you dad!’ Yeah. (*laughing*) No he really is my biggest supporter and he hasn’t missed a fight yet. He flies up for all of them.”

Speaking of breaking down opponents, Macfarlane took the opportunity to break down Veta Arteaga ahead of their fight at Bellator 220.

“I think all of my opponents are dangerous but I think she is the most dangerous opponent that I will ever face at this point. I say that because she does not care about getting hit. She does not care who’s standing in front of her. She does not care about the bright lights. Nothing intimidates this girl. She’s going to be the most aggressive fighter that I’ve ever gone against. If you don’t know who Veta Arteaga is you’re going to know because she BRINGS IT.”

Arteaga wasn’t intimidated fighting a kickboxing champion so it’s fair to say she’d approach fighting a MMA champion the same way.

“She’s not going to let the fact that I’m the champion or the fact that we’re (the) co-main event (on Saturday), she’s not going to let any of that effect her.”

In much the same way Macfarlane is not going to let sharing a spotlight with “The Red King” Rory MacDonald disrupt her flow or change her performance on April 27th.

“A lot of people are asking like ‘Oh — are you mad that you’re not (the) main event?’ No, that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t even care if I was on the undercard, you know? That’s how exciting this whole card is. I’m really excited. I’m honored actually to be co-headlining an event with Rory MacDonald and Jon Fitch.”

She’s also looking forward to popping a bottle full of bub with Curtis Jackson.

“I’m also excited to see 50 Cent. So 50 Cent goes to all the fights that are part of the tournament, and so he was at Bellator Hawaii, and he gave me his ‘Winners Only’ champagne bottle. Yeah I’m looking forward to popping some bottles with him backstage if all goes well afterwards. It’s pretty good too. I was able to drink it at my luau afterwards, after Bellator Hawaii, so yeah it’s pretty tasty.”

Win or lose in Hawaii, Macfarlane was prepared to have fun after the fight, and the same can be said for San Jose on Saturday.

“After all of my fights, I like to thank whoever came out from out of town to come watch me, support me. I like to take them to dinner just to say thank you.”

For the undefeated Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane the party’s just getting started.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “MacDonald vs. Fitch” 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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