Often times when fighters are undefeated, they can understandably be arrogant and perhaps overly confident. The same can be said for champions. So when mixing the two, it’s rare to see that zero stay a zero for all too long. However, despite being both undefeated and a champion, these descriptions wouldn’t be fitting for Bellator’s first and only flyweight queen, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Similarly, like another undefeated champion in Virna Jandiroba who is also fighting this weekend, Macfarlane manages to stay very grounded and humble on her journey although many others in her position wouldn’t be. And that she attributes to her realistic view of the MMA landscape after having seen others fall before her.
“It’s a mindset that I have going in that I accept losing, I accept defeat because once I do that it actually takes a lot of the pressure off,” Macfarlane told BJPenn.com. “When you’re like, ‘Alright, I could actually very well lose this. It’s just kind of a mindset I’ve adopted since the beginning and it’s kind of worked so far so it’s like, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy winning or like I’m looking to lose, it just means that like if it happens, it happens. What’s going to define me as how I respond to that loss.”
Losses for many fighters end up being the best things that ever happen to them. Which is just another reason why we don’t see lossless champions too often. But when the day that it does happen is prepared for and as the champion said, accepted, it forces one to stay ahead of the game without actually falling behind in the first place.
“It’s gonna happen and you’ve seen great champions before who think that they were going to retire undefeated and seen how hard they crashed and how their world was shattered,” Macfarlane said. “So I think this mentality really keeps me grounded, keeps me realistic. And like I said, I actually draw a lot of inspiration to the Lakota warriors, I’m like a history nerd, and they would say, ‘Hokahey’ which means ‘today is a good day to die’ and that’s what sort of made them some of the fiercest warriors in the world… That they were ready to die. So that’s kind of like a mentality that I take like, today’s a good day to die, guys. Time to go for it.”
At Bellator 220 tomorrow night live from the SAP Center, ‘The Ilimanator’ looks to make her third successful title defense by taking out Veta Arteaga.
As the fight announcement perhaps came as a surprise to some with the also unbeaten Julianna Velasquez waiting in the wings, it wasn’t shocking for Ilima-Lei Macfarlane who knew how exciting if a fighter Arteaga was and is.
“I think of every opponent as being the most dangerous opponent in the world… But I truly feel that way with Veta,” she said. “And I feel that way because she’s the most aggressive fighter in the division. It’s like I said, all of her fights have been absolute brawls and wars. She’s not scared of anyone, she’s not scared of who’s in front of her, not scared about the numbers, not scared of the bright lights, you know? She brings it every single time. And I think she’s like a caged animal to me. So I think that makes her exceptionally dangerous. Compared to my previous opponents, I would definitely say she’s the scariest.”
A great mind as a fighter with apparent skills that got her the title in the first place, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has begun to further set herself apart from the pack with her unique training regimens. One of which she began in the build-up to her last fight that sees her train underwater.
“Literally from the first day I tried it, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is a game changer, guys’ like I need to keep doing this,” Macfarlane said. “And I went so far as to even get certified as one of the instructors just cause I see the massive benefits from it. They provide so much to so much mental work. Like besides the physical benefits of CO2 tolerance, VO2 Max. Just the mental benefits I think I’ve improved with the most.
“And so I’m like super chill, in crazy situations, very calm. One of the biggest things they stress on is on-demand relaxation because the minute you freak out, that’s when you start losing your air. You start tensing up. Um, so yeah, I’m just super calm in bad situations. When I’m wrestling, when I’m grappling, when I’m sparring, you know? It’s seriously a game changer.”
For the Hawaiian, every next fight is her biggest fight as she looks to set an ‘unsmashable’ record in the Bellator flyweight history books. And that all continues at Bellator 220.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/26/2019