Bellator MMA flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane catches up with Tony Reid of MyMMANews.
Tony Reid – How did camp go in the lead up to your second Bellator Women’s Flyweight title defense in Hawaii in December?
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane – This camp was pretty smooth sailing. Well, mentally I am really good. I had a huge freak out and breakdown during that camp and I wanted to quit fighting.
TR – Wait, you wanted to quit fighting?
IM – I just got my ass kicked in shark tank. It’s one thing to get your ass kicked. That’s fine. I can take an ass beating. It’s another thing to not lose any weight from it. What’s the point? The weight wasn’t coming off. I was just stressing about it. I told the guys I was done. I’m done fighting. Call Bellator and tell them I’m done fighting. I was crying on the side. My teammates have never seen my cry like that before. They were thinking ‘Holy shit. What’s going on?’ The next day I was fine and I was able to turn it around. Mentally, I feel the most level headed during this camp, which sounds crazy. Everything went well. I knew what to expect from fighting in Hawaii, so that was nice. That took away some of the pressure.
TR – There are so many great aspects of fighting at home but I can imagine there are a lot of distractions when you are training and fighting in Hawaii. What types of distractions did you deal with in the lead up to the fight?
IM – Oh, for sure. I think a lot of it has to do with me having too much aloha. I have the big luau that I prepare and that has now become a big thing. I throw a luau after my fight. So I was in the process of planning all of that. I am super cool with a lot of reporters and photographers and videographers and they all hit me up on my personal number instead of going through PR. Its shit like that. Then you have sponsors to work with. It’s crazy. There is so much fight week complications and obligations that come with not only being a champion but also fighting in your hometown that it can get pretty nuts sometimes. I knew what to expect from last year, so I felt good about everything. I am just excited. I just wanted to get the fight over with and go party.
TR – Fair enough. What do the post-fight celebrations entail?
IM – We have an after party right after the fight. We go out with my beer sponsor, Anheuser-Busch. They put on a big party that is open to everybody. Right when I walk through the door they hand me a beer. Here I am, I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for three months. I have been dieting hardcore. I just fought a fight. Now I have to drink all this beer but it is great. It’s so much fun. Then we have the luau the next day, which we have to set up for while we are all hung over. It’s just a big luau to thank everybody for coming in for my fight. It’s to show the whole Bellator crew, the whole Bellator family, how we get down in the islands. We have good Hawaiian food, good Hawaiian music and just have a nice gathering for the family.
TR – You posted an image of yourself backstage behind the curtain right before the walkout. What are you going through mentally, emotionally and physically in those moments?
IM – It’s like a crackhead. It’s not the actual drug fix that gets them, it’s the anticipation is what really gives you a high. It’s like that feeling behind the curtain is that feeling of anticipation. It’s almost as if I am way more nervous behind the curtain more so than even being in the cage. I couldn’t see anybody but I could feel them. It was so emotional because I could just feel the pride that the audience had for one of their own and for the warriors that were on the stage representing. That was a chicken skin moment. I was so happy that random person caught it on camera. I didn’t see that footage until months later. A guy walked up to me at a Jiu Jitsu tournament and said he was backstage doing the lighting for the show and he said he wanted to send me the video. I saw it and thought holy crap. That was nuts!