Undefeated women’s MMA prospect Ilima-Lei ‘Ilimanator’ Macfarlane has the biggest fight of her young career ahead of her this week as she is scheduled to face 6-1 Rebecca Ruth at Bellator 157 (Bellator: Dynamite 2) this Friday night.
Despite her perfect 3-0 record, Ilima hasn’t allowed her success in the cage go to her head. In fact, she has maintained a beginner’s mindset and isn’t at all afraid to admit she still has doubts every time she competes.
“A big reason I am how I am is I still consider fighting fun for me,” an excited Macfarlane told FO ahead of the first televised fight of her pro MMA career. “I don’t put too much weight on it. I literally go into all my fights expecting to lose. I’m always really nervous. I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to lose. I’m going to get knocked out in the first round. This is going to be terrible.’ So I always say, ‘Low expectations but high hopes.'”
She continued: “I go into my fights with an open heart, saying, ‘OK, I could win, which would be awesome. But I could also lose.’ But you always learn the most from your losses. It’s how I react to that loss that will really determine what kind of person and what kind of fighter I am.”
Though Ilima is pursuing her MMA career whole-heartedly, the Hawaiian is still settling in to life as a professional fighter.
“I still don’t identify as a fighter, to be honest,” Ilimanator said. “I don’t introduce myself like, ‘Hello, I’m Ilima. I’m a professional MMA fighter.’ I don’t know why. I went to college, I got my degrees, I was intending to become a teacher and work for a non-profit (organization) or something. I think that idea itself is still on the back-burner, I still identify with that a little bit more. And I’m still early on in my fight career… in a couple more years I’ll probably be like, ‘Alright, I’m a fighter.’ I have to prove myself more.”
But, despite her fears, Macfarlane isn’t the kind of fighter to surrender before she’s even stepped inside the cage on fight night. She may not have 100% confidence in herself, but she certainly has the utmost confidence in her San Diego Combat Academy coaches and training partners.
“I definitely do a lot of visualization… we do have a game plan for (Ruth),” she explained.
“We all work together to figure out my fights. It’s really nice. It makes it a lot easier on me because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing most of the time (laughs).”
Once was a time when Bellator fighters spoke openly about their desires to earn a place in the UFC – MMA’s most mainstream promotion – but there has been a noticeable change in recent years. Now the Viacom-owned organization, led by former Strikeforce boss Scott Coker, is growing faster than ever and will look to do numbers rivaling UFC pay-per-views when this Friday’s show – one of Bellator’s biggest this year – is broadcast live on Spike.
Like many of her fellow Bellator athletes, Macfarlane, despite the UFC’s flourishing women’s divisions, is more than happy where she is.
“A lot of people have asked me, ‘When are you going to go over to the UFC?’ I have zero desire to go anywhere else. Bellator were the ones who believed in me and noticed me, even before the whole viral video knockout. I love working with them. They treat me like family; I consider them my family. I have no desire to go elsewhere. I’m honored they’ve taken me under their wings and helped build me as a person and a fighter.”
Bellator 157 takes place June 24th at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.