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Scott Coker: Liz Carmouche vs. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane next, unsure if bout takes place in Hawaii

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
Lucas Noonan, Bellator MMA

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane might get her wish.

The former Bellator flyweight champion won a narrow split decision over Kana Watanabe this past Saturday in Honolulu, then called for a fight with close friend and longtime training partner Liz Carmouche. Macfarlane has won two straight fights and holds the Bellator record for the most defenses of the 125-pound title, a belt that Carmouche successfully defended the night before.

This isn’t the first time that Macfarlane has respectfully called out Carmouche, who she referred to as her “sister wife,” as she has referred to it as her ideal retirement bout.

Bellator President Scott Coker spoke to the media after Bellator 295 and said that the matchup is likely, but isn’t sure whether Macfarlane will get that dream fight in her home state of Hawaii.

“I think the first step is for her to fight Liz Carmouche,” Coker said. “That’s top priority. By winning this fight against Watanabe, who was extremely competitive, skilled, a lot of folks thought it could have went either way, and it was a tough fight. But getting the decision puts her right in the sights of Liz and we’ve got to do that fight.

“Do we do it here? I don’t know, because the [Neal S. Blaisdell Arena] is being closed for remodeling. We’ll talk to Stan Sheriff Center, see what’s available. But listen, that fight we can promote anywhere. That’s a big, big time fight. Those two girls have had great runs in their martial arts careers and we would love to promote that fight before the end of the year.”

Macfarlane, 33, has competed for Bellator since her second pro bout in August 2015. She has been one of the promotion’s most well-recognized fighters, winning her first 10 fights for Bellator and successfully defending its flyweight title four consecutive times before dropping it to Juliana Velasquez at Bellator 254.

Coker would love to have Macfarlane’s last fight be in Hawaii, but isn’t sure whether that can happen this year.

“We’ve got to talk to her about it, but sometimes geographical locations are tough,” Coker said. “We have a business to operate as well and we’re a fight company that has to continue to throw fights, so if we can’t get the Stan Sheriff Center and you can’t come here you’re kind of like, what are you going to wait another two or three years?

“It’s something that we’ll have a dialogue. We have a good relationship with these athletes and we’re going to have a conversation. We’ll do our best to accommodate her, that’s what I’d say.”

Regardless of who is on the card, Coker has been thrilled with Bellator’s regular trips to Hawaii, which typically include back-to-back fight nights on Friday and Saturday. He’d love to visit “The Aloha State” more frequently, but mentioned that much of his 2023 calendar is already set or in the works.

“Traditionally, we’ve done one event a year in Hawaii,” Coker said. “The two events, the military event and first responders event, and then we’ve done the fight on Saturday night for the general public. That’s kind of been our business cycle once a year. But listen, you don’t have to ask me or my staff to come back to Hawaii, you don’t have to ask us twice. Believe me, it would be fun, it would be great, my staff loves it, everybody loves it here. The guys in the production truck were already booking travel, I said, ‘Hold on, boys, just wait a minute.’

“It would be fun, but like I said, we have a lot of dates ahead that we have already scheduled and we have a lot of dates that we have scheduled that aren’t even announced yet, so we’re kind of busy until the end of the year. Could this fight fit? Could we talk to the Stan Sheriff and maybe get a date? We’ll see, but it’s been difficult getting a date over there in the past.”

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