Winning a championship belt is a significant accomplishment in one’s life, and so Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s family opted to celebrate her achievement in capturing the Bellator women’s flyweight belt by holding what she called a “belt party.”
Little did she know that in addition to being presented with her Bellator championship belt, she’d also gain a few family members.
“It’s an incredible story,” said a beaming Macfarlane, who on Friday at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula, California, will defend her title against Alejandra Lara on the Paramount Network in the main event of Bellator 201.
Macfarlane’s father, Walter, was born in Hawaii during World War II in 1941 and never knew his biological father. One of his best friends in high school, Alan Robinson, was in the same position.
Last year, Macfarlane and her siblings got together and purchased a DNA kit for their father. A few months later, he got a notice that the service believed they had found his half-brother.
“He started getting all these hits, and one day, he got a really high match,” Macfarlane said. “It said, ‘OK, you share half of your DNA with this person. We think this person is your half-brother.’ He looks at the profile and after some investigating, he’s like, ‘Oh my goodness. I think this is Robby!’ ”
Uncle Robby was Alan Robinson, who was one of Walter Macfarlane’s best friends since they were in sixth grade. It turned out, they were 18 months apart and their mother gave them up for adoption during the war.
Macfarlane thought it would be a good idea to make the announcement during her belt party, and it wound up so big, that her father and uncle found themselves being interviewed by CNN and NBC.
“They got more famous than me,” she said.
That isn’t the end of the story, though. Robinson had also done the test, and discovered Walter Macfarlane was his brother, but he found his biological father, as well. Walter Macfarlane found his father, as well.
Walter Macfarlane learned he has four more brothers and they’ll all meet and cheer on Ilima-Lei at Pechanga on Friday.
“It’s just an incredible story,” she said.
The events of the eight months since she won her belt have been incredible. In addition to the expanding family, Macfarlane lost her Bellator championship belt in a fire. While traveling for a promo shoot in Hawaii, she went out for a karaoke night and left her belt at the house she was staying in.
“I have a love for karaoke unlike any other,” she said.
When she returned home, the house was on fire and her belt was destroyed. A fireman found it – melted into a ball – and gave it to her.
She didn’t really need a new belt, and got a kick out of the notion that she became the first champion to lose her belt without having had the chance to defend it.
“It was a metaphor, almost, and it taught me that even though I don’t have the belt, it doesn’t take away anything and I’m still the champion,” she said. “The belt doesn’t define me.”
But she vows to fight furiously to defend it on Friday against Lara, who is a training partner of the UFC’s Alexa Grasso. If, as she expects, she comes out of the fight successfully, she has some plans for her post-fight interview.
She’s not simply going to ask to fight a specific opponent.
“If I get asked on the mic what’s next, I’m going to say I want Bellator Hawaii,” she said. “We’ve never had a Bellator in Hawaii and I’ve never fought in Hawaii, and I think that would be incredible. So I’m going to try to advocate for Bellator Hawaii.
“And I’m also going to ask for my own bobblehead! I think it’s time they make a female bobblehead!”
If she gets the fight in Hawaii, who knows what she may find? Her ever-increasing family could just keep on growing.
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