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COVID-19 pandemic canceled Bellator champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s wedding

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Ilima MacFarlane Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator strawweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane planned an April Fool’s joke that wasn’t really a joke. Then COVID-19 came along and ruined the setup.

Macfarlane and her fiance, Jason Tupuola-Aiono, were going to get married in Jamaica on April 1, a day with all the significance of a national holiday for the Bellator champ.

Born on April 2, Macfarlane’s birthday celebrations were one long string of pranks. One of the most important days of her life was nothing short of the perfect opportunity.

”So people didn’t know whether if it was serious or not,” Macfarlane explained Monday on the A-Side. “I was like, this is going to be the ultimate prank.”

The engaged couple was on an extended layover in the champ’s adtoped hometown of San Diego, Calif., when a coronavirus pandemic brought life to a halt in cities around America. Suddenly, the idea of a colossal head fake didn’t seem so fun any more.

”My fiancee and I had left Hawaii – we were in Hawaii for, like, two months, and we left Hawaii to come to San Diego,” she said. “In just in our layover in San Diego, we got stuck, like holy crap.

”I’m really thankful we got stuck up here, because sh*t can get really crazy on the islands, and that’s also part of the reason we canceled our wedding in Jamaica. We would be total hippocrites telling people, ‘Don’t go to Hawaii, better stay your ass at home, stop bringing the virus to Hawaii, stop using the island’s resources’ when we were going to do the exact same thing in Jamaica.”

They could have flown to Jamaica, Macfarlane said. But they opted to cancel everything: a 30th birthday party, wedding, bachelorette party and a drag show.

”Even though the pandemic affect me professionally, it affected me personally,” she said.

There’s always next year, even if the surprise is ruined. And it could have been worse. Macfarlane isn’t one of dozens of fighters now wondering whether they’ll be able to fight any time soon. She competed this past December, notching another high-profile title defense on home soil at Bellator 236 in Hawaii.

Macfarlane gives a big shoutout to her homeland, which she said is setting a good example of taking seriously the threats the virus poses.

Now, she’ll hunker down and wait for the next step, like everyone else.