Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will experience some familiar feelings when she walks into the Blaisdell Arena for Bellator 213 on Saturday.
Macfarlane will be representing something more than Punahou this time, as she will have the entire state behind her. But the butterflies will probably never be fluttering more than when she took the mat for the 2009 state wrestling championship.
In 2009 she met Hana’s Ahnjalee Akuna, a beast of a competitor who went on to wrestle in the World Team Trials, in the state wrestling final. She had pinned her way through the tournament to that point and climbed into the spotlight believing that Punahou’s team title was at stake.
She caught Akuna and pinned her 1:14 into the match, setting off a celebration a career in the making and handing Punahou the team title. No Punahou girl has pinned her way through the tournament since.
As a junior, the former Buffanblu basketball player came up short against Mililani’s Kuuipo Badayos, losing 3-0, in the 2008 state final and fell to Monique Dilliner of Kailua in 2007’s final match.
Before Macfarlane faced Akuna in her last opportunity to win a state crown after coming so close the year before, only Elizabeth Torres of Kahuku in 2003 and Moanalua’s Alicia Fu in 2006 had successfully stared down the demons and won.
Roosevelt’s Marissa Fukunaga (2011), Brayanne Moe of Radford (2011) and Kalani’s Megan Yamaguchi (2010) have since felt the same pressure and succeeded.
It took Macfarlane six years after graduating from high school before jumping into the world of mixed martial arts, where she made her debut in 2005.
Since then, she has racked up eight wins, including six by stoppage, to become the second female world champion from Hawaii, joining Mililani alumna Angela Lee.
Macfarlane defends her flyweight world title against Valerie Letourneau in front of a sold-out Blaisdell Arena crowd in the main event of Bellator 213.
For more on the fight, click here.