Bellator flyweight Ilima Macfarlane is eager to prove her status as the top fighter in the division. But since the organization has yet to introduce a 125-pound title, she has to find creative ways of getting that recognition.
MacFarlane’s (4-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) strategy is quite simple, she said. All she has to do is go after recognizable opposition, and few on Bellator’s roster are more recognizable than Russian Anastasia Yankova (3-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA).
“I want to fight Anastasia Yankova, and not because she’s done really well inside the cage,” MacFarlane told MMAjunkie. “Honestly, she he has only fought once and it was against an opponent making her debut at a catchweight, which isn’t all that impressive. But, seeing all of the hype surrounding her, I think a fight between the two of us would be great for promotional purposes.”
The potential matchup would apparently also help satisfy a personal desire of MacFarlane’s, she said. And that desire is not a championship belt.
“I’m not really sure who would further my claim for a title shot, but I think a win over Anastasia would definitely further my chances of making out with her,” MacFarlane said. “I’m not sure if my desire to fight her has more to do with my hopes for a title shot, or a hidden sexual tension I feel between us. Either way, I’m game.”
After three consecutive wins under the Bellator banner, the most recent being a second-round submission of Rebecca Ruth at Bellator 157 in June, MacFarlane said she’s earned the right to call her shot. Her professional career started in controversial fashion when she earned a memorable 10-second knockout over Katie Castro under the Xplode Fight Series banner in January 2015.
Since that fight, however, MacFarlane has bested some legitimate competition. She admits the controversy surrounding the fight with Castro was a mental hurdle, but said her true colors as a competitor have begun to shine through in her follow-up performances.
“I think the mental aspect of fighting is where I have experienced the most development,” MacFarlane said. “It’s been tough for me, fighting the stigma that came along with my professional debut that was labeled as the ‘soccer mom fight.’ I think that put some doubt in me and made me think that maybe this sport isn’t for me.
“I think I definitely developed in the mental aspect of the game. Now I know that I am cut out for this and I can do it successfully. It definitely has a lot to do with me feeling more comfortable in the cage and believing in myself as a fighter. Each fight that I take is further validation for me that I am the top flyweight in Bellator, so I think I’m just gaining more confidence.”
Although MacFarlane has her motivations for calling out Yankova, who won her Bellator debut with a 95-second submission of Anjela Pink at Bellator 152 in April, she said her eye is still firmly on the ultimate prize of winning the inaugural Bellator flyweight title, whenever it’s finally introduced.
MacFarlane, 26, said she approved of the way in which Bellator has built its women’s divisions over the past year. However, she is still waiting for a champion to be crowned in her weight class.
With a 3-0 record under the Bellator banner, MacFarlane doesn’t see anyone more deserving of a title-fight opportunity. She said she believes the organization’s decision-makers know as much and will make the right call to include her whenever the timing is deemed appropriate.
“I know that (Bellator President) Scott (Coker) said that he would like to crown a champion by the end of the year, but I really don’t know when that would be,” MacFarlane said. “But, I definitely think that I’m the front-runner in the division. I’ve already fought three times. I’ve fought the most out of all of the female fighters that Bellator MMA has signed and I have won all of my fights.
“I thought that Rebecca Ruth was the other contender and having decisively beaten her, I think I solidified myself as the front-runner. If Bellator thought it was the right timing and thought I was ready, then I’m game. My camp has been preparing me for a title shot since my win over Ruth, so I’m ready whenever they are.”
If Bellator chooses to grant MacFarlane her request to fight Yankova, making it a five-round championship affair would only be that much sweeter. She’s not so sure that will happen, though, because she doesn’t know when a title will be a reality and she wants to share the cage with Yankova “as soon as possible.”
Whether she gets that chance remains to be seen, but because she’s laid out a name, date and location for her next fight, she hopes Bellator will oblige.
“Ideally, I would love to fight at Bellator 160 in Anaheim at the end of August, simply because it would be cool to fight on the West coast and in California,” MacFarlane said. “I would have a ton of friends and family in attendance. But I’m ready for her whenever.”