Bellator champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will be emotional fighting for a home crowd

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Hawaii’s Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will headline Bellator’s first-ever event on the islands.

The Punahou graduate will be defending her flyweight championship Saturday night against MMA veteran Valerie Letourneau.

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway has made it clear he wants a fight in Hawaii.

Bellator is giving its own Hawaii belt-holder a home fight, and Macfarlane is expecting Saturday night to be a special moment.

“It’s definitely going to be very emotional,” said Macfarlane, “and I say that because I know the walkout is going to be emotional. I know my family, especially, they’re probably going to cry. I’m probably going to cry, too. It’ll be emotional, but once I step into the cage, then it’s just like every other fight. It’s time to throw down. It’s time to handle business.”

Macfarlane has already defended her flyweight title once. She says the second defense is a unique situation.

“It’s totally different,” said Macfarlane. “Aside from the fact that I’m fighting at home, it’s going to be a lot different because Valerie is a different opponent than my last opponent. Valerie is a very, very experienced and seasoned veteran of the sport, so just that alone is going to make things a lot different from my last fight. She’s a pioneer of the sport. She’s one of the first female fighters I ever watched. So her experience is probably her biggest factor.

“She also really likes to strike. Even though her game is really well-rounded, she has a good solid ground game, striking is where she’s strongest and probably where she’s going to want to keep this fight,” Macfarlane added. “I think people are going to be a little surprised to see me stand and trade with her because she is a very high-level striker whereas I am predominantly a grappler. But everybody knows that Hawaiians, they like to stand and bang and you know, riding off of Max’s momentum this last weekend, I’m like, ‘Who knows? Maybe you’re going to see me just stand and bang and trade with her,’ so I think people are going to be a little surprised.”

Bellator 213 takes place Saturday starting at 3:30 p.m.

Tickets are still available online here.

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