MMAjunkie’s 2018 ‘Breakout Fighter of the Year’: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane got what she wanted when Bellator had her defending her title against Valerie Letourneau in Hawaii.
As even the most seasoned vets will tell you, though, the privilege of being the local hero is a trade-off. For all the support, there’s also pressure. With all the attention, comes expectation. And then there’s the balancing act of handling the added promotional labor while simultaneously preparing to fight another human inside a cage.
Not only did Macfarlane (9-0 MMA, 8-0 BMMA) have all of that on her plate, it was also in a particularly momentous occasion: The return of a major MMA organization to Hawaii after more than a decade. All the while, she was training for her most experienced and dangerous foe in a former UFC title challenger.