Bellator 236: “Macfarlane vs. Jackson” takes place Sat., Dec. 21, 2019 at Neil S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii at 9 p.m. ET exclusively on DAZN. The main event sees local favorite and undefeated Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) look to defend her crown at home against Kate Jackson (11-3-1).
Finding challengers to face Macfarlane is getting to be a challenge given the way she’s run roughshod over the 125 lb. division, but with only one loss in her last nine bouts, Jackson is as strong a challenger as the “Ilimanator” has faced. The English fighter also excels at striking, scoring 55% of her wins (six of 11) by knockout.
While that may be bad news for Macfarlane in one respect, there’s bad news for Jackson in equal measure. Macfarlane is a supremely talented 10th Planet jiu-jitsu wizard, having finished 60% of her opponents on the ground and often in eye-popping fashion. Unless Jackson’s ready for submissions in every position, she’s in for a very dangerous fight.
Today Kate Jackson talks to MMA Mania about facing such a dangerous world champion in a main event in hostile territory and how she’s prepared for this test.
“I’m feeling really good. I finished my last hard sparring session on the weekend and flew out to L.A. yesterday, so it’s just sort of getting acclimatized and finishing up with drilling and strength conditioning out here.”
Jackson is clearly a step ahead when it comes to dealing with the jet lag, but there’s still another flight to Hawaii and another two hour difference — not to mention the rabid home town support for Macfarlane compared to her.
“It looks like the Hawaiians are really passionate fight fans, which is good, because at least they’re going to appreciate the fight. I don’t know if they’re going to go out of their way to be particularly hostile (to me) but I spent the vast majority, the middle portion of my career maybe the middle six years, fighting outside of the U.K. after I had run out of U.K. opponents in my weight class. It’s not really going to be a new experience from that point of view.”
Jackson makes a point Macfarlane may find all too familiar when she says she “ran out of opponents” in her weight class. There aren’t too many women left for Macfarlane to face.
“There’s obviously (Juliana) Velasquez, who is fighting on the main card as well, but I think that is a No. 1 contender fight. But after that I think they’re going to have to start looking. I think they’ve signed some new women actually that may well have the sort of record and experience to fight the top of the division, so it’s probably not all that bad once you sit down and look at it carefully.”
Even if Juliana Velasquez and Bruna Ellen is a fight to crown a future contender, Jackson would prefer for one of them to be facing her instead of Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
“Yeah for sure! I’ve always, especially starting when I did and not having the opportunities that are available now, I’ve always sort of looked at it one fight at a time. At one point there was nothing beyond that. I was just fighting for the hell of it really. So yeah, the ramifications of actually winning are still fairly secondary to me I think.”
That statement sparked more curiosity in me, so I asked Jackson just how difficult it had been to get good fights in the early stages of her career before signing with Bellator.
“I’m kind of second generation still. There was Rosi Sexton, who started fighting seven years before me, and she was really helpful. But the start of my career, my first fight, I wouldn’t even say I had a firm grasp of the rule set. I had only competed in judo up until that point, so I was just going in there to see if it all worked if you put everything together. That sounds insane looking at it from the perspective of the amateurs that are coming through now, but it’s very much how it was back then anyway.”
She won that first fight via TKO in just 48 seconds, but Jackson would assert that if anything her striking game is overrated and her ground game is underrated in terms of her skills.
“I think especially early on my record made me look more of a striker, and especially when I first started where I felt most comfortable (there), but we’ve put a lot of work into my ground game. I got my brown belt at the end of last year, I’ve competed more times in Brazilian jiu-jitsu than I can count, and last year there were a couple of wins in the Abu Dhabi Europeans, so I’m quite comfortable on the ground. That’s where I expect it to end up and I’m hoping that we can put on a good show there.”
There are very few fighters at Flyweight who can say they look forward to facing Ilima-Lei Macfarlane on the ground with a straight face, but Kate Jackson is quite convincing.
“There’s definitely more of a submission element to her grappling game than there is to mine when it comes to MMA (but) I have an awful lot, somewhere between 40 and 50 submission wins in jiu-jitsu competitions. That ability is there and it’s just a case of… I think we match up well. She fought another brown belt in her last fight who seemed to give her the most trouble that she’d had on the ground really. I think that bodes quite well (for me) really. It makes for a good match-up and a good fight.”
If that fight with Veta Arteaga is any indication, Jackson may believe Macfarlane’s only chance is a doctor’s stoppage. We shall find out on Saturday night.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 236: “Macfarlane vs. Jackson” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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