Bellator has only had one flyweight champion throughout the promotion’s history. And that is none other than “The Pineapple Princess,” Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
A perfect 10-0 in her professional career, Macfarlane most recently scored her third consecutive title defense at Bellator 220 in April. Ending in a violent fashion, the Honolulu, Hawaii native would slash her opponent, Veta Arteaga, with a devastating elbow strike that forced the doctor’s stoppage in round three. The win would equal out to her eighth via finish in her career (six submissions, two knockouts).
Since Macfarlane’s last appearance, she’s been enjoying herself relaxing and traveling the world. And during that time, her good friend and occasional training partner, Kanako Murata, got the biggest fight of her career announced. The Japanese wrestling standout is set to square off against Macfarlane’s former challenger, Emily Ducote. The vacant Invicta FC strawweight crown will be on the line when the pair meet at Invicta FC 38 in November.
“Yeah, they actually contacted us because her opponent, is my former foe, Emily Ducote, who I fought twice,” Macfarlane told The Body Lock. “So her team, CSA (Combat Sports Academy), who I’m really cool with, Coach Kirian [Fitzgibbons] and them, they contacted us and was like, ‘hey, would it be possible if Ilima could come up and train?’ And I was like, ‘hell yeah… but I might be starting my own camp pretty soon… specifically Monday…’ So it just gets tricky and so we’re like, dude if Kanako wants to come down, we’d love to help her of course, like I’m totally team Kanako. That’s my girl. Hopefully, we can work something out. But I have full confidence that Kanako is going to do really well in this fight.”
Obviously, Macfarlane hinted at something in the works for herself.
Prior to the champion’s last outing, she headlined her title in her home of Hawaii for Bellator’s first pair of events in the state. With a star as big as Macfarlane has become, it would be silly for Bellator not to go back. That was always the plan following its conclusion, and now we know that it’s coming to fruition.
“I can only tell you, and this is not because I can’t tell you, it’s just because this is all I know,” Macfarlane explained. “But next week at Bellator [229 in] Pechanga they will be making my fight announcement. And it will not only be news to you guys, but it’ll be news to me because I don’t know anything! So they kind of told me like, ‘hey, make sure you’re at Pechanga.’
“It is and it isn’t [more interesting that way]. The only thing I do know is that it’s going to be a Bellator Hawaii card. But I don’t know the dates and I don’t know the opponent. So that’s the only thing because I’m like brah, I have a lot of family that’s flying so they got to know the date so they can you know… airfare. So that’s the only thing. I don’t even care about the opponent. Just tell me the date so I can tell my family.”
A mystery opponent to the highest degree, a safe assumption has been that a fellow undefeated flyweight in Brazil’s Juliana Velasquez (9-0) will be the next challenger. However, Bellator President, Scott Coker, didn’t seem too committed to that idea in his Bellator 228 media scrum.
Well, everyone – including Macfarlane – will find out next weekend.
“I feel like there are several viable options,” she said. “But yeah, I mean, Juliana has been on a rip right now. So again, I have no idea who it is. And it’s not like I get to choose, just whoever they say. And again, I really don’t care who I fight. I just care about the date.”
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at: "Drake Riggs" where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.