(Photo Courtesy Bellator)
It has been six months since Ilima-Lei MacFarlane won the inaugural Bellator flyweight champion. It will be another two until we see her back in action.
This past week, the promotion announced MacFarlane’s first title defense will be against Alejandra Lara in Temeucla, California June 29th. This will be sort of a homecoming for the champ, as she made her Bellator debut in the same venue a little less than three years ago.
“A lot of people are wondering ‘Why were you waiting this long to fight?'” Macfarlane told us recently. “I say ‘They need time to build these other girls up.’ I have more fights than most girls in the division. I am 6-0 in Bellator. All those other girls only have a couple of fights in Bellator, or have several and then they lost. Bellator has to build some of the girls up to find a worthy opponent.”
It isn’t like MacFarlane doesn’t understand the division is still growing, with Bellator signing new athletes looking to start their careers and make a name for themselves. She herself admits she is still growing as a fighter.
“I think a bunch of us are still a bit green. We’re all young. We don’t have that many fights The only veterans in the division are Valerie Letourneau, Colleen Schneider, and Kate Jackson. The rest of us have 10 fights or less. Experience wise the rest of us are pretty young in the sport.”
“I think the nice thing about Bellator is all about dark horses. Scott Coker does a really good job at seeing talent early on. He was the one who built up Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. Soctt Coker was the one who discovered them. Scott Coker in Bellator has be doing a great job picking talent.”
One talented fighter the champ has been keeping an eye out for is Kristina Williams, who has back to back upset wins, with her latest coming against former title challenger Emily Ducote.
“I think Kristina Williams was one of those young fighters Bellator saw talent in. I don’t want to say she is a dark horse because everyone knows she just derailed two of the hype trains of Bellator. She isn’t the dark horse; she is actually a front runner. She is 2-0, but if you look at her amateur record, she has all these Muay Thai fights and all these MMA fights. She has just as much fight experience of the girls that are already signed. She can absolutely be one of the front runners of Bellator.”
MacFarlane is hoping to be much busier come the later half of the year, and hopes to defend her title as challengers prove themselves worth.