UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway isn’t the only prominent fighter with Hawaii roots who wants to see a major mixed martial arts card held in the Aloha State.
Following her submission victory against Alejandra Lara in the Bellator 201 headliner on Friday night, reigning flyweight queen Ilima-Lei Macfarlane – also a Hawaii native – called for a trip to the island down the road. However, the Team Hurricane Awesome product also recognizes there are issues that make it more challenging to hold an event there than in other venues.
“I’ve talked to some of the staff at Bellator, and of course everyone wants to go to Hawaii,” Macfarlane told reporters during a post-fight scrum after Bellator 201 (video via MMAjunkie.com). “I think it just comes down to logistics. Everyone wants to figure it out. The tourism bureau is giving problems. The UFC tried doing it, so I think it just comes down to the logistics. There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone wants to do a Bellator Hawaii, so we’ve just got to find a way to make it happen.”
At the beginning of the year, the UFC did meet with a delegation that included the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Aloha Stadium officials regarding a future event in 2018. Ultimately, UFC President Dana White said the proposal was shot down by the Tourism Authority and the Las Vegas-based promotion wouldn’t be going to the state “anytime soon.”
Bellator President Scott Coker said Hawaii is on the promotion’s radar, but it’s a matter of finding the right time.
“We always wanted to go there, it’s just the timeframe that is challenging,” Coker said. “You’ve got it on a Friday, and now you have to promote it at 3 o’clock in the afternoon – that makes it tough. If there’s a way to do it, we will find a way to do it.”
Whether her next title defense happens in Hawaii or elsewhere, it appears that Macfarlane’s next opponent will be Valerie Letourneau, who earned a decision over rising talent Kristina Williams in a featured bout on the Bellator 201 main card. Letourneau has her own ideas about a potential venue, but that will have to wait until after she wins the 125-pound belt.
“I would fight her wherever I have to,” Letourneau told assembled media . “But my goal is to grab this belt and fight in Canada. One thing at a time. When I hold this belt, I should be fighting in my own country. This is the plan. But I’m happy I’m getting this shot. I’ll respect. I’m going to go fight her in her (home state). I have no problems with this.”
Macfarlane and Letourneau later squared off and had a playful exchange regarding the destination of their potential bout: