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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane wants fight with friend and Bellator champ Liz Carmouche for retirement bout

Former Bellator flyweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane would like to go out on top with a title fight against her longtime friend and training partner, current Bellator flyweight champ Liz Carmouche.

“Of course I want to retire as champ,” Macfarlane said after her unanimous decision win over Bruna Ellen at Bellator 284. “That’s the ultimate goal, to go for it one last time, put all my eggs in one basket and f****** go for it.

“My ultimate dream retiring fight would of course be in Hawaii, fighting for the belt against my girl Liz Carmouche. I love you Liz, and this is just the fight that’s supposed to happen. It’s a full-circle kind of fight; Liz was the first person that I encountered when I set foot inside the gym. We are no longer training partners any more. We’re still really good friends – we’re sister wives, and I’m just like, dude, this is it. This is the perfect storyline.”

Heading into Bellator 284, the main storyline surrounding Macfarlane was whether she was willing and able to fight at a high level. After losing her belt to now-former champ Juliana Velasquez, dropping a decision to Justine Kish and openly questioning her desire to fight, Macfarlane’s future looked doubtful. But after three rounds with Ellen, she survived submission trouble and won striking exchanges to capture a unanimous decision.

Career longevity wasn’t the only question Macfarlane faced heading into this past Friday’s event. A longstanding knee injury also beckoned.

“The injuries were getting really tough,” she said. “I’ve fought the entirety of my career with a bad knee. This was a knee injury that I sustained back in high school, which actually took me out of sports. I didn’t think I was ever going to play sports again. I had two surgeries in high school on the same knee. It plagued me throughout my career, but I was winning, and despite hurting it every single camp before a fight, I refused to get it looked at, because I didn’t want to face reality that I might have to get surgery or stop fight.

“So after I lost the belt, I got to re-evaluate everything. I don’t have the belt any more ... now’s the time to fix the knee. Unfortunately, that surgery last year didn’t really help that much. It helped, but then we realized what I needed. I basically need a new ACL. I just don’t know if I want to go through a major surgery like that and come back to fighting. That’s why retirement was on the horizon for me, just because of the neck injury in the Kish fight and the knee. But I felt really good in this fight. The knee wasn’t an issue, and the neck wasn’t an issue.”

Previously, Macfarlane preferred not to face Carmouche, who was signed by Bellator after an unceremonious exit in 2019. But the two-time UFC title challenger made her home in the flyweight division and racked up three wins before a title shot against Velasquez. In a controversial outing at Bellator 278, Carmouche captured the title with an early ground-and-pound attack.

If Macfarlane gets far enough to be in line for the belt, she’ll have to put friendship aside for one night. She’s now made peace with that.

“I know that when the day comes where we fight each other, it’s going down. We’re going to be probably stalking each other’s Instagrams, too, the whole time, watching what everyone’s doing. It’s going to be fun, and I say that with the utmost respect for her.”

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