Ilima-Lei Macfarlane weighs in
Bellator MMA flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane breaks down the five biggest fights of her life.
1. Rebecca Ruth (Bellator 157) – That one was the first time I was on the main card. On paper, I should have lost. She was much more experienced than I was. She was the hometown favorite. My coach, Manolo, was in the hospital, in the ER, on his deathbed. As soon as we flew to St. Louis he had to be transported to the ER. It was really scary. That was the first fight that he wasn’t in my corner. When I won that fight it was like ‘Holy Shit! I can do this!’
2. Emily Ducote (Bellator 186) – The second fight with Emily Ducote, where I won the Bellator Women’s Flyweight title. I was the inaugural flyweight champion. It was crazy. When I actually submitted her it was like ‘Holy Shit!’ It hit me right then but it still hits me today. It was the moment when I finished her and also when I saw the response on social media. I saw how many people were tuning in for that fight. I saw how much support I had and it hit me all over again. OK, this just changed my life. My life is officially changed forever.
3. Alejandra Lara (Bellator 201) – This was my first title defense. It’s like the old saying goes, you aren’t a true champion until you defend your belt. On top of that, Pechanga is basically in my backyard in San Diego. So that was a crazy, crazy fight week and a crazy sold out arena. That was the first sold out venue that I ever fought at. It was all of my fans in attendance. It was the first week where I had cameras following me around and all that kind of stuff. It was my first true taste of what I have to do as a champion. That was really a radical experience for me.
4. Valerie Letourneau (Bellator 213) – That was my second title defense and it was also my homecoming fight in Hawaii. That was always my goal, to fight back at home. Bellator Hawaii can count for two fights on this list. It was insane. Everything-that atmosphere, the walkout, the fight finish, it was all so crazy.
5. Katie Castro (Xplode Fight Series-Hurricane) – It was my ‘Soccer Mom’ fight. It was my pro debut. This was the one that catapulted me into viral fame. I remember it being really cold and I just wanted to get it over with. We were waiting five hours to fight. It was gnarly. It was super cold because it was outdoors. My core Hawaii family was all shivering and freezing. It put me out there and everyone kind of knew me for that fight. Yeah, ‘Soccer Mom’ would probably be number one. It was significant because it put my name out there and it gave me a taste of what it would be like being in that spotlight. It prepped me well for online trolls and having thick skin to be in this sport.