Bellator 254 marked a lot of firsts for Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who is now the former Bellator women’s flyweight champion.
“Man, this is like a first a lot of things,” Macfarlane told MMA Junkie at a post-fight news conference. “I don’t think I’ve ever bled like this before or broken my nose or (been) cut open. So yeah, this is cool.”
Macfarlane’s after-fight statement expressed a sigh of relief. She was at peace with the result.
“Honestly, this is, in a really weird way – this is kind of what I always felt like I needed in my career,” Macfarlane said. “You can’t just always keep winning and excelling. You have to hit some type of plateau or something. I’m actually really happy that this happened. I’m relieved that this is what it feels like to lose.”
Ilima showed a range of mixed emotions but voiced that she was now in a state of relaxation. She spoke on the burden of being a champion and all that comes with it.
“These are tears of relief,” Macfarlane said. “It’s hard being a champion. It is hard doing it for so long, so I’m really grateful for this experience and this moment. … Sometimes, I think as a champion you don’t get that luxury of choosing your fights or, I don’t know, taking really crazy fights. I’ve always wanted to be that fighter that takes a fight on two weeks’ notice, you know? I guess you almost really do have more freedom when you’re not at the top.
“I’m excited about this next chapter. I was joking with my corner (like), ‘Yay, this means I don’t have to train for five rounds anymore in camp. I can have a three-round camp. ‘Then I was like, ‘Oh, well, there might be a rematch or maybe we’ll get a tournament,’ so I guess I’ll still have to train for five rounds. Yeah, it just seems like there’s a little bit more flexibility when you’re not the champ.’”