Ilima Macfarlane is a star on the rise, but she is happy to be sharing the spotlight with the newest member of her family: Her 72-year-old uncle Alan.
The circumstances under which Alan Robinson came to be recognized as a member of the Macfarlane clan are so spectacular that the fact that he’s related to Ilima, the recently crowned Bellator flyweight champion, was but a footnote in the story of two long lost brothers who had actually been friends for over 60 years that ended up going viral over the holidays.
Ilima’s father Walter Macfarlane had submitted DNA samples to a pair of websites that track ancestry in the hopes of finding his own father, who he never knew. He inadvertently ended up discovering that his close friend Alan was actually his biological brother who had been given up for adoption 15 months after Walter was born.
It was Walter’s daughter Cindy who put the wheels in motion for the mystery to be unraveled, and eventually the Macfarlane family found out that Alan — who Ilima had presciently been referring to as “Uncle Robby” — was Walter Macfarlane’s brother. The revelation was first reported by KHON2 in Honolulu, Hawaii and later picked up by several major outlets including CNN, much to Ilima’s amusement.
I come home and my Dad is doing an interview with CNN. He's more famous than me! Hahaha— Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (@ilimanator) December 27, 2017
The timing couldn’t have worked out better for the family to share their story, as they had already scheduled a gathering to celebrate Macfarlane’s success inside the Bellator cage. The undefeated fighter submitted Emily Ducote at Bellator 186 this past November to become the promotion’s inaugural champion at 125 pounds.
A KHON2 news crews in had already been working on a feature for Macfarlane and they would be present at the party, so she decided it just made sense for them to stick around and watch as Alan was formally reunited with his brother.
“When I came home we planned this belt party for me to celebrate with everybody, and we decided why don’t we share the news with the rest of the family and reveal Uncle Robby?” Macfarlane told MMA Fighting. “That way he can meet the rest of the family, because Uncle Robby was an only child growing up. He had another brother but the brother died of an illness when he was 19, so he doesn’t really have any cousins or nieces or nephews or anything, and so he can meet his side of the family now.
“The news stations were actually there for me, for the belt party, to get footage because I was doing interviews with them all week, and I asked them, ‘Hey, would you guys be able to just stay a little bit later and get this story on my dad because I think it’s really awesome and everybody needs to hear about it.’ So they did and it ended up going viral and blowing up, so that was my part in the whole reveal.”
Best Christmas present of all...we got a new Uncle! In my Dad's quest to find his biological father, he found a new brother! But the kicker is...it was one of his best friends and teammates from Punahou growing up . We discovered this just a few weeks ago and decided to reveal it to the family yesterday at my belt party. It is safe to say that there was not a dry eye there. We feel so blessed, it is truly a Christmas miracle!!! And thank you so much to @kitv4 and @khonnews for capturing this beautiful story. Merry Christmas everyone from the Macfarlane and Robinson 'ohana!!!!
While Walter is still hoping that he can find more information about his biological father, for now the Macfarlanes are thrilled to be welcoming not just their uncle, but the family he brings along with him that includes his wife Eva and their two children.
For Ilima, that might mean asking Bellator for a few more free tickets the next time she’s in action.
“It’s so cool because ever since they found out, they’ve been attached at the hip,” said Macfarlane. “They hang out every day, they come to all the family stuff, New Year’s they were all at my sister’s house, Christmas we were all together, so it’s been amazing. They’re talking about coming to my next fight, wherever that is, so it’s like there was no time lost at all. It’s like, ‘Yeah, this is our family.’ It’s perfect. It’s such a perfect addition.”
As for when that chance will come to see her work, Macfarlane hopes to have her first title defense in April at a yet-to-be-announced Bellator event expected to feature Fedor Emelianenko vs. Frank Mir. She’s interested in fighting Valerie Letourneau, the one-time UFC strawweight title challenger who recently made a successful promotional debut with a unanimous decision win over Kate Jackson at Bellator 191.
According to Macfarlane, she and Letourneau are “super cool with each other” and have been going back and forth about potentially fighting, though nothing is official.
Watch KHON2’s feature on the best-friends-turned-brothers below.