This past April, flyweight up-and-comer Ilima-Lei Macfarlane kicked off her third year as a pro MMA fighter in much the same fashion as she had done in her previous two years by picking up a submission win over Jessica Middleton at Bellator 178.
With the win, Macfarlane remained undefeated in her first six fights and added a fourth finish to her record, further cementing her as one of the top flyweights in Bellator.
“I felt it was a good performance on my end,” Macfarlane told MMAWeekly.com. “I wanted to get an early finish and make a statement to Scott (Coker, promoter), Bellator, and the rest of the division that I’m #1 in the division and deserve the title. Everything went smoothly in that fight.”
On November 3 in University Park, Pennsylvania, Macfarlane (6-0) will go for her first MMA championship when she takes on Emily Ducote (6-2) in a 125-pound title co-main event of Bellator 186.
Having previously faced, and defeated, Ducote last December at Bellator 167 by unanimous decision, Macfarlane feels she will be able to use what she learned in the first bout to her advantage in the rematch.
“(Ducote) has a really good guard and swept me twice while we were on the ground,” said Macfarlane. “We worked a lot on trying to stay out of her guard, how to get past it, and how to be more stable with my base and ground and pound.
“We are kind of expecting her standing. I did win in the ground stages, and I do feel like I have the best ground in the division, so most girls have wanted to keep it standing with me. Having that been said, it could be a total wild card fight and be all over the place like the first fight was.”
Having originally gotten into martial arts for health reasons, becoming a champion fighter was never much on Macfarlane’s mind. But now that it is a possibility, it’s the next goal she is aiming to achieve.
“I didn’t have any intention on fighting,” Macfarlane said. “Once I signed with Bellator my goal was to put on good fights to prove to people I’m not a fluke. Once I accomplished that, I thought I could fight for a championship, and that became a goal. I just took it one step at a time. I’m going to try to win this belt and then go and defend it.”
Along with winning a title, Macfarlane could also position herself as possibly female MMA’s next breakout star, which is a role she is more than happy to embrace if it comes her way.
“Being a face of the Bellator (flyweight) division is something I’m totally willing to do and would welcome doing,” said Macfarlane. “It’s really not just about fighting. There is a business side to it. The marketing side of it, the promoting side of it, all that stuff, is definitely something that I’m open to and would love to do.”