Hawaiian-born Bellator MMA women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has effectively distanced herself from all the negative publicity associated with her first professional fight against Katie Castro. Bellator signed her after the infamous 10-second “Soccer Mom” knockout, and it was wise to do so.
Macfarlane carries a perfect 7-0 record into her title defense against Alejandra Lara in the Bellator 201 headliner on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Ahead of the five-round clash, here are five things you might not know about the champion:
1. She started a scholarship program for indigenous girls.
Macfarlane in June launched The Ilimanator Inaugural Scholarship for native girls in conjunction with the Native Like Water InterTribal Youth Program. It all started when she was mentoring in Panama and received a call from Bellator that she would be fighting for the vacant women’s flyweight title against Emily Ducote. Immediately, Macfarlane told ITY Program Director Marc Chavez that if she won she would use a portion of her prize money to set up the scholarship. After submitting Ducote with a triangle armbar in the fifth round, she donated $2,000 towards the fund. Now, Macfarlane has been knocking at the hearts of friends, families, fellow fighters and fans to join her cause.
2. She holds a degree in cultural anthropology.
If she were not fighting today, Macfarlane believes she would probably be a social studies teacher or a nonprofit worker. That should not come as too much of a surprise, with her being a cultural anthropology major. A mentor for the Native Like Water group, she also has a Master’s degree in liberal arts and science, with a focus on indigenous issues.
3. She discovered recently that she is part Native American.
An advocate of indigenous issues, Macfarlane laments the high incidence of violence against native women. They also happen to have some of the highest cases of homicide and missing persons. According her program’s website, the money generated will be used “to provide Native American and Native Hawaiian adolescent female youth with an opportunity to access world-class indigenous education enrichment programs.”
4. She was the inaugural Eddie Bravo Invitational women’s flyweight combat jiu-jitsu champion.
Macfarlane endured a tough semifinal challenge from Brooke Mayo to secure a championship ticket at EBI 12. Her weapon of choice was the triangle choke she locked in during overtime. In the final, she submitted Celina Haga to take the title and the $2,500 in prize money.
5. She once worked as a server at a steakhouse in San Diego.
When Macfarlane revealed her other job during the interview process, the hiring manager immediately recruited her; it is not every day that you have a future world champion taking orders for your business.