Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Emily Ducote have already squared off once, but the stakes will be much higher for their rematch at Bellator 186.
Still, even with the promotion’s inaugural flyweight title on the line Friday night, there is no animosity between Macfarlane and Ducote. In fact, their relationship has been downright cordial up to this point.
“I’m actually a huge Emily Ducote fan, too. I’m like a fan girl,” Macfarlane told Sherdog.com. “Even before we fought, after her debut at Bellator, I followed her, messaged her. I’ve actually always liked Emily. You’ll find that me and her aren’t s—t talkers, and that’s what I appreciate about her. We’re very similar. We didn’t get these opportunities by being s—t talkers and calling girls out. We got these opportunities by showing up, rising to the occasion, putting in the work and letting our fighting speak for itself. I’ve always respected Emily. I totally like her.”
Of course, both competitors put an end to the dialogue once their rematch was booked.
“We actually have each other’s phone numbers. We’ve texted each other a couple times. Once we sign that contract, that kind of went out the door,” Macfarlane said. “We’re not disrespectful to each other but we were like, ‘Let’s focus, let’s do this.’ We stopped messaging each other after that. Nothing but respect for Emily, she’s awesome.”
Macfarlane earned a unanimous decision victory over Ducote in their first fight at Bellator 167 last December. In that contest, the Team Hurricane Awesome product relied on takedowns and top position to earn the nod on the judges’ scorecards. Ducote was able to sweep and reverse on a couple occasions, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.
In the rematch, Macfarlane expects Ducote to try and keep the action standing.
“We actually think that she’s gonna stay on her feet with me. I was beating her on the ground besides the time that she swept,” Macfarlane said. “Since our fight, I’ve been pretty active in the jiu-jitsu world. I won the combat jiu-jitsu belt for [Eddie Bravo Invitational] 12. I won Gracie Worlds. I feel like I have the best jiu-jitsu game in the division, and most girls would be scared to go down to the ground with me. We feel that she’s gonna try to keep it standing. There was a little bit of an exchange on the feet in our first fight, which I thought I won. I think that my 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu game is stronger than hers.”
That said, Macfarlane has planned some adjustments should they go to the ground at Bellator 186. The 27-year-old San Diego resident said she learned some valuable lessons in the first fight with Ducote.
“I made mistakes in that fight. For example, I got really overzealous with my ground-and-pound and she was able to sweep me because I didn’t have a good base,” Macfarlane said. “I have to stay out of her guard, she has a really good guard recovery. Even in her Jessica Middleton fight, when Middleton was in her guard she was throwing up armbars. We really focused on staying out of guard for this camp. Still focusing on ground-and-pound but just from half guard or mount. I feel confident on my feet and on the ground with her, even against the cage. I was taking her down against the cage. I feel physically stronger than her.”
Macfarlane has been campaigning for a shot at the inaugural 125-pound belt as soon as it was announced that Bellator would be opening the division. Because of that, she has been mentally prepared for this moment long before her title shot became a reality.
“I have been thinking about this for a while every since the talk of a belt has come out. I believe that was about a year ago. I’ve kind of been preparing myself mentally for the opportunity,” Macfarlane said. “Now that it’s here, I just feel like I deserved it. That I belong there. Obviously I’m excited. Am I supposed to be nervous or scared right now? I’m thrilled I get to be fighting for a belt and making history with Emily.”
Macfarlane is already the most recognizable face in Bellator’s relatively new division. That said, she isn’t allowing herself to think too far ahead regarding a potential championship reign.
“I don’t like to think too far in advance and that’s always been my style,” she said. “I do take it fight by fight. Obviously I’m still scoping out opponents, possible future opponents. I watch all the ladies’ fights. Obviously I want to keep the belt for as long as possible. But I’ve got to get it first. I’m not thinking about the future, I’m just thinking about Friday. I’ve got to get the belt first before I can start having all these daydreams about what life will be like.”