Emily Ducote had a feeling Ilima-Lei Macfarlane would be one half of the equation when Bellator MMA elected to put the inaugural women’s flyweight crown up for grabs in 2017. However, she didn’t she herself in the title picture for at least a couple more fights.
“I was a little surprised when they offered this fight only because I had in my opinion thought she should be fighting for the title. I just didn’t know they would put me,” Ducote told Sherdog.com “I had two fights after [losing to Macfarlane] and I was expecting to have to do a few more before that rematch. But they offered and they don’t have to ask twice.”
Ducote dropped a unanimous verdict to Macfarlane in their first bout at Bellator 167 this past December. The American Top Team OKC product rebounded to post victories against Katy Collins and Jessica Middleton in her last two outings. Now Ducote will get another crack at Macfarlane with 125-pound gold on the line at Bellator 186 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State University campus on Nov. 3 The evening’s main card airs on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
For Ducote, the most significant gain she has made since the first meeting with Macfarlane has been mental.
“In that time I’ve tried to learn from every fight. Most of the lessons are mental. With Ilima, I always talk about not knowing my level before the fight and after realizing, ‘Hey this is the level I’m on.’ It was a close fight. She’s a high-level fighter; I’m a high-level fighter too,” Ducote said. “That’s what my biggest takeaway was. In the past year, that’s what I’ve been trying to build off of. Just fighting at that level and trying to be constantly improving.”
At Bellator 167, Macfarlane relied on takedowns and top control to earn the nod on the judges’ scorecards against Ducote. While Ducote was able to sweep from the bottom on several occasions, it wasn’t enough to warrant a decision. That said, “Gordinha” isn’t afraid to go to the mat with her opponent.
“In that fight she took me down a bunch of times,” Ducote said. “I didn’t have my defense really at that time. That was one of the things we took away from that fight. Since then we have been working on everything: my striking, wrestling offense, wrestling defense and of course, my ground. I am confident that I have improved in that area. If we go to the ground, I’m not very concerned. I’m ready to be anywhere in the fight.”
At this point, Macfarlane is the more recognizable commodity in the promotion, and she began her tenure with notoriety because of the infamous “Soccer Mom” KO in her MMA debut that went viral. Since then, Macfarlane has moved past that victory and established herself as one of Bellator’s top up-and-coming female fighters with five consecutive triumphs.
Ducote knows her standing in this rematch.
“We’re the underdogs. Plain and simple. I’m just working on my stuff, not focusing on what she’s doing or what Bellator’s promoting or what other people are thinking about this fight,” Ducote said. “For me it’s just a fight and I’m going in there to be better than I was last time. That’s really my goal is to show improvement and fight as well as I can.”
Ducote won’t be relying on manufactured animosity for the rematch, however, In fact, the 23-year-old considers herself to be a fan of Macfarlane.
“I haven’t seen her really in real life but I am a fan,” Ducote said. “She’s got a big following for a reason. She’s kind of an addicting personality. She’s friendly and nice and funny and she fights well. All of that together really just draws people to her.”
After Bellator 186, Ducote hopes to be the one drawing a crowd by taking advantage of an opportunity she didn’t see coming.
“It’s really amazing because no matter what happens it’s history, and that can’t be changed,” she said. “To be a part of the very first Bellator flyweight title is really an honor. That in itself is really exciting to me.”