History will be made this Saturday night at Bellator 220… And that will all be determined by the flyweights.
In the night’s co-main event, we have the returning unbeaten champion, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane as she looks to extend her title defense number to three straight. On the other side of the equation, there’s the always game Veta Arteaga who hopes to play spoiler and become the promotion’s second 125-pound queen.
With Arteaga’s last fight coming in September 2018 against the Bellator kickboxing flyweight champion, Denise Kielholtz, the 31-year old was just ready to get back in action around the time she found out about this next fight in January.
“I was excited just to be back in camp,” Arteaga told BJPenn.com. “My manager called me. He was like, ‘Hey, we have a fight for you on the 27th,’ I was like, ‘Oh, sweet! Where?’ He’s like, ‘Oh, San Jose,’ ‘Okay, great.’ He’s all, ‘Well, don’t you want to know who?’ Oh, yeah! That’s important *laughs*.
“He told me against Ilima, it’s a title shot. I’m like, ‘Oh! Yes,’ this is what I want, I’m gonna go out there and show the world who I am and my skills and be champ. Yeah, I was excited and I was ready. As soon as he said that, I was ready.”
With her last win already coming over a current champion, Arteaga understands that as long as she keeps putting in the work, the rewards will follow. In this case, that reward comes in the form of a Bellator MMA world title.
“Well, it’s more of just… I’m ready to go out there and fight, the reward will come with the reward,” Arteaga said. “As long as I go out there and I’m myself, the win takes care of itself and then it comes with the title, the champion which comes with some hardware. Which I don’t mind having! So yeah, it’s exciting. I’m ready. I’ve been ready.”
As both Macfarlane and Arteaga are two of Bellator’s most consistently entertaining fighters, matching them together is a recipe for fireworks. And the challenger wouldn’t be surprised if they steal the show.
Of course, a dominant showing would be nice too… Especially when it’s handing the champion her first career loss.
For most fighters who get their first title fights, particularly outside of the UFC, it will act as their first time potentially fighting for a full five rounds.
“No, not at all,” she said in regards to two additional rounds changing the gameplan much. “I trusted my coaches the whole entire camp. I would go and do extra sprints. If I have the energy, I’ll go and put in the work. I don’t mind working hard to get what I want so yeah, that doesn’t bother me if it goes five rounds. If I can finish in the first or I can finish in the second, even better right?”
Fighting as somewhat of an underdog throughout her career to this point, and once again against the seemingly unstoppable ‘Ilimanator,’ Arteaga is more than happy to keep proving people wrong.
For the Boise, Idaho native, it all changed a bit after her first loss, a controversial one at that, when she lost to Anastasia Yankova in 2016. After that, Arteaga admitted that her mindset shifted to “going for blood.”
When her and Macfarlane square off in Bellator 220’s co-main event, the challenger expects herself and the champion to respect both of their skills as they go to war. Once that commences, she expects it will only take one moment to capitalize for either.
Well, there’s only one way to find out… And that’s by tuning in on Saturday night.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/25/2019