Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is relieved she lost for the first time and is no longer the champion.
In the main event of Bellator 254 on Thursday, Macfarlane dropped a close decision to Juliana Velasquez. After the fight, the Hawaiian spoke to the media and said she is relieved she doesn’t have the pressure of being the champion anymore.
“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 for 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.’”
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane was the first ever Bellator flyweight champion and held the belt since 2017.