Still riding the wave from an unreal night on her home island back in December, Hawaii’s “Pineapple Princess” is set to once again defend her women’s flyweight world title.
Ilima-Lei “The Ilimanator” Macfarlane (9-0) will defend her belt against Veta Arteaga (5-2) in the co-main event at Bellator 220 on Saturday in San Jose, Calif.
In Saturday’s Bellator main event, welterweight champion Rory MacDonald (20-5) will defend his title against Jon Fitch (31-7-1, 1 no contest). The bouts will be broadcasted via streaming service DAZN.
Macfarlane last defended her belt in the main event at Bellator 213, defeating Valérie Létourneau via submission on Dec. 15 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.
Macfarlane, who now resides in San Diego, will not only put her belt on the line but will also vie for a perfect 10-0 in her pro fight career.
Before she makes her return to the cage, TGI had the chance to chat with Macfarlane.
You last fought in December in Honolulu. Have you settled down since then, or are you still feeling the high from that event?
Oh, man. I feel like I’m going to feel that high for the rest of my life, honestly. It’s still super-fresh, especially in preparation for this upcoming fight. Everybody is still talking about Bellator Hawaii. Yeah, I’m still recovering from it.
When you look back on it, what are some things you remember about that night?
Just the unity you felt that night and the mana you felt in the Blaisdell is for sure what I remember the most. That walk-out was insane. And then the moment that I won and everybody stood on their feet, like, those moments are indescribable. Just feeling all the love from that entire arena was insane.
I feel there’s this kind of renaissance with Hawaiian fighters. There’s yourself, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and ONE Championship women’s atomweight champion Angela Lee. Do you agree?
Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s also this camaraderie amongst us. We support each other no matter what organization you fight for. We have this bond with each other and this unity, and I love it. And, yeah, we do have this thought like, we’re some of the most dominating fighters in the industry right now. The fact that we have three champions in what I consider the three top promotions in the world speaks volumes of how impressive our Hawaii talent is. I’m really grateful to be part of that.
Is another Bellator Hawaii event being considered?
Well, I’ve definitely heard rumors. Of course, Bellator is really good at keeping things a surprise for me. They always do this to me. Yeah, I’ve definitely heard rumors that they want to come back. To be honest, I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to come back. Bellator Hawaii was such a success. Crossing my fingers that it will happen, and we’ll wait and see.
So, what can you tell us about your next fight and your upcoming opponent?
She’s actually the most aggressive opponent that I’ve been matched up against. She’s super in your face, comes forward constantly. Just constant forward pressure. She’s also not scared, man. She’s a full-on brawler. She’s not scared about the bright lights. She’s not scared about her opponent. Even if she’s split open bleeding, she doesn’t care. She’s a little pit bull.
I think that makes it a really exciting matchup. But also, a part of me thinks that she’s not going to come out guns blazing like she normally does because that would leave her open for the takedown. Everybody knows I have a really solid ground game. That’s my turf. Once it hits the ground, that’s where I’m going to finish you. To prevent that, I think she might be a little tentative. Or, I could be totally wrong and she comes out and tries to knock my head off. We shall see.
Going for 10-0, is that something significant to you?
Yeah. I mean, I truly didn’t even think about that until someone was like, “You could be 10-0, and then 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu,” which is my jiu-jitsu school. Yeah, I don’t know. I never really thought about that. Numbers don’t really phase me a lot. Rankings don’t really phase me. I’m kind of just like a “one fight at a time” type of person. But obviously, I want to stay undefeated. Remaining undefeated means more money — mo money, mo problems. Yeah, I would like to keep that zero in the loss column.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like give a little plug. I have a scholarship right now. It’s called the “Ilimanator Scholarship.” I created it after I won my belt with my win bonus money. It’s a scholarship for young native girls. They could be Native Hawaiian, Native American, Native Alaskan, any type of indigenous. It’s for girls 12 to 18. It provides them with travel opportunities, cultural enrichment and educational programs. We do programs in Panama, San Diego, Hawaii and Jamaica. If you know any native girls who would like to apply, you can find out more information at nativelikewater.org, or you can type in “Ilimanator Scholarship.”
The reason I created this scholarship was because typically, native women and girls face the highest rates of violence out of any demographic. So, I just want to create travel opportunities, get them off the reservation or off the island, show them that they can do anything they want. Like, see all these strong women in the cage fighting. Give them these opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Really cool scholarship story. My sponsor, Aloha Aina Poi Company, they are out in Waimea. They have a lo‘i out there. They’re an amazing nonprofit organization. Anyway, they decided that they are going to match my scholarship. They are donating a scholarship that’s going to go specifically to a Kauai resident.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.