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Juliana Velasquez’s ‘hands are tied,’ but still counts on shot at Bellator champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane

Brazilian judoka Juliana Velasquez is undefeated in four Bellator bouts with three finishes.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Juliana Velasquez flew to Hawaii last year hoping that a win over Alejandra Lara would get her a fight with Bellator flyweight queen Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who was set to defend her belt the following night.

They both won that weekend in Honolulu, but Velasquez returned home without a shot at the gold.

Macfarlane defended her belt four months later against Veta Arteaga, while Velasquez had to prove herself one more time in July, knocking out Kristina Williams. The Brazilian judoka once again thought a title shot was on the line for her, but Bellator had other plans.

Velasquez and Macfarlane will fight on the same night at Saturday night’s Bellator 236 in Honolulu, but against different foes. While the 125-pound queen defends her throne against Kate Jackson in the main event, Velasquez battles fellow Brazilian flyweight Bruna Ellen.

The Team Nogueira talent won’t look past Ellen nor pick and choose opponents based on records, but admits she has a lot at stake going into this fight while Ellen, who is 3-2 in the company, does not.

“I’m undefeated and coming off a lot of wins in Bellator and she has nothing to lose, so this is a dangerous fight,” Velasquez told MMA Fighting. “I think she has nothing to lose and ends up acting like it’s my responsibility to win, but I carry no extra responsibility. I always enter a fight the same way, with the same mindset and goal. Every win is important. I need this victory to get me to a title shot.”

Back to Honolulu a year after winning a fight she thought would grant her a shot at the Bellator belt, Velasquez has “no idea” if the opportunity will come after Bellator 236, “but I’m very professional and will fight whoever they put in front of me.”

“I’ve been hearing that a lot, but my hands are tied,” said Velasquez, who finished three of her four opponents since joining the promotion in Dec. 2017. “I’m a professional and this is my job. That’s how I face this.”

Velasquez refuses to stop thinking about title shots, though, and enters Bellator 236 expecting to face the winner of Macfarlane vs. Jackson next in 2020.

“Yes, I believe I’ll fight for the belt after this one,” she said. “I believe that, winning this fight, I’ll get my chance to fight for the belt. This is what I want, this is what I’m going after.”

Velasquez predicts that Macfarlane will retain her belt in the main event Saturday, but isn’t sure how she gets it done against Ellen.

“I’m ready to fight in all areas,” Velasquez said. “I can knock her out if my hand lands, or knock her down and submit her. I wasn’t even thinking about a knockout in my last fight… I’m already ready for everything, but my gameplan was to go for takedowns because Kristina Williams had dangerous kicks, but I ended up knocking her out.

“I create no expectations anymore. I’m going there to finish the fight. No matter how, the moment I find an opening, I’ll execute.”

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