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Bellator's Ilima MacFarlane embracing fame from viral 'soccer mom' KO video

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David St. Martin, MMA Fighting

TEMECULA, Calif. -- If you haven't heard of Ilima MacFarlane, hop on YouTube sometime.

In January, MacFarlane's vicious KO of winless "soccer mom" Katie Castro went viral. The win took place under the notorious Xplode Fight Series, an unsanctioned event based in California.

Following a split decision win over 2-2 Maria Rios Aug. 28 at Bellator 141, MacFarlane says she felt the pressure of the entire "viral community" watching her debut.

"Of course I was nervous," MacFarlane said post-fight. "This is my Bellator debut. My first fight with a big promotion so my main goal was, win or lose, I just wanted to put on a good fight and prove to everyone that I'm a legitimate fighter. Especially after my pro debut, which I'm sure everyone has seen.

"I can always improve and get better but for right now I think I've proven to a lot of viewers and "haters" that I'm good. I belong here in Bellator. I deserve this."

MacFarlane says she was bombarded with negative comments regarding the KO, but largely brushed them off considering the source.

"I actually did read the comments," said MacFarlane. "At first I was upset. When I found out that it had gone viral, I was, 'Oh, awesome!' But I wasn't expecting the backlash I received. When I took the time to read the comments, I was upset, but when I clicked on their profiles to see who they were they were just keyboard trolls, keyboard warriors. Over time I actually found them to be really funny. I was able to brush it off. It wasn't a problem after that."

In an e-mail interview with MMAFighting.com before MacFarlane signed with the promotion, Bellator MMA president Scott Coker said he was "extremely disturbed" by the fight footage, but placed the blame for the mismatch on Xplode, not the fighter.

"Any publicity is good publicity," said MacFarlane. "A lot of people didn't know that we were in communication with Bellator prior to it going viral. We were fine. I didn't get a contract because of that video. I got a contract because of my skill as a fighter. Hopefully, I proved that I can move past the whole "soccer mom" thing, but we may still capitalize on it. We'll still make shirts, probably. "Soccer mom" with a big "X" through it."