In her triumphant return to the cage, former Bellator Champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane came up short against Justine Kish. A disappointing loss in her home state of Hawaii, and you could say Macfarlane looked like a shell of her former self.
Illima-Lei Macfarlane Returns to the Cage
The fight against Justine Kish was a contest where she looked unsure on her feet. You could say she looked poor in her striking attempts and was dominated in the clinch. A far cry from her usual game. The 10th planet Ju-jitsu disciple attempted some submission attempts, but they all fell short as Macfarlane lost via unanimous decision on the night.
Perhaps it was ring rust or something mental, perhaps it was her knee that almost forced her into retirement, or maybe it was something more.
It is no secret that Macfarlane has had many issues outside of the ring. Her injury was more severe than initially expected, compounding the emotional effect of her first career loss. She’s had personal battles along with those battles involving/ affecting her beloved father.
What Is Next?
Whatever it was that night, she is at a crossroads in her career. She’s on a two-fight losing streak in a division that continues to thrive after a controversial finish to the Bellator women’s flyweight championship between Julianna Velasquez and Liz Carmouche.
Not only is there a power struggle at the top, Diana Avsaragova, and Kana Watanabe continue their rise towards Bellator’s ultimate prize.
The real question is, where does Macfarlane go from here? What was supposed to be a layup in Justine Kish turned into her second career loss?
Here are a few solutions: depending on her contract with Bellator, she could leverage a broadcast job through a bidding war between her organization and ESPN. She has both experience and the desired look in the broadcast booth, and her experience as both a fighter and a Jiu-jitsu specialist under Eddie Bravo would give her a unique advantage in a new role.
If she wishes to continue as a fighter, she has lost all leverage for a title rematch. However, a rematch with Kate Jackson and Veta Arteaga, two of Bellator’s upper-class flyweight fighters, could put her on the right track again. She already has wins over them, and they’re notable names.
Wherever Macfarlane goes, her contributions to the game shouldn’t go unrecognized. She dominated the flyweight division for over three years, she was Bellator’s first female flyweight champion, and she brought the first big US mainland MMA organization to Hawaii. A true inspiration for the next generation of fighters.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images