HONOLULU — It was a happy homecoming for Ilima-Lei Macfarlane on Saturday night at Bellator 213.
In front of a packed Neal S. Blaisdell Center, the Hawaii native forced challenger Valerie Letourneau to tap via a third-round triangle choke submission.
Macfarlane — a Punahou grad — defended her 125-pound title for the second time and moved to 9-0 as a pro.
“I stood the first two rounds, but in the third round, I was like, ‘I’m going to play my game now. I’m not going to play her game,’” Macfarlane said on the broadcast.
Her biggest win, however, was being the catalyst to bring a major MMA organization to the islands — a feat neither BJ Penn or Max Holloway have been able to accomplish despite dominant runs in the UFC. Previously, the last major MMA show in Hawaii was a 2008 event promoted by EliteXC.
Covered in lei and celebrating her Hawaiian heritage, Macfarlane had an extented, electric walkout — something she could have only experienced on her home turf.
“I could feel it backstage before I walked out,’ Macfarlane said. “I was crying when I walked in tonight.”
In the co-main event, Lyoto Machida recorded a split decision in his debut over the former middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho and Neiman Gracie defeated Ed Ruth via submission to advance in the welterweight grand prix.
Earlier in the night, Big Island fighter Chris Cisneros succumbed to Maki Pitolo via a submission in the third round of a welterweight fight.
Some of the fights — including the bout between Hilo’s Russell Mizuguchi and Michael Nakagawa — were bumped to after the main event due to time constraints and ended after West Hawaii Today’s deadline.
Saturday was the second part of a Bellator double-header in Hawaii. Bellator 212 took place Friday in front of a crowd of primarily members of the military.
In the main event, Michael Chandler defeated Brent Primus by unanimous decision to win back the Bellator lightweight world title
In the co-main event, Javy Ayala submitted Frank Mir — a former UFC champion — via strikes.
Also on the main card, A.J. McKee, Juliana Velasquez and Sam Sicilia all recorded victories.