Hawaii has long been a significant market for mixed martial arts, but the 50th state doesn’t get the major shows live. The time difference makes it difficult, as does the expense of getting the necessary television equipment there.
But ever since Honolulu native Ilima-Lei Macfarlane captured Bellator’s women’s flyweight belt, the event seemed inevitable. And on Wednesday, Bellator president Scott Coker announced the company would put on its first show at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu on Dec. 15 when Macfarlane defends her belt in the main event of Bellator card against Valerie Letourneau.
It will also include a first-round welterweight grand prix match between Ed Ruth and Neiman Gracie. The card will be streamed on DAZN.
Coker told Yahoo Sports that he believes both Macfarlane and Ruth have star potential and that the Bellator Hawaii show could be a launching point for them.
Macfarlane is 8-0 and developing into a well-rounded threat, Coker said.
“She’s already on her way [toward stardom],” Coker said of Macfarlane. “Give her a couple more years. I’m telling you, this girl is the real deal and she’s just now coming into her own. I think she’s going to be one of the big stars in Bellator. She is so well-rounded, she’s extremely tough and she has a complete game. She can grapple with the best of them. She can strike with the best of them and she’s got this little fun personality that makes people gravitate toward her. People really like her.”
Ruth was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State and a four-time All-American. His development as a pro reminds Coker of Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, who developed from elite wrestlers with no striking into well-rounded MMA champions.
Coker said he believes Ruth is good enough to win the Grand Prix, which features some of Bellator’s best fighters.
“The guy is a beast,” Coker said of Ruth. “He’s a guy who is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Everything I’m hearing from inside AKA, which of course is one of the best MMA gyms in the country, is that he’s coming along incredibly and guys had better be ready. Of course, he already had that great wrestling game, which is as good or better than anybody’s on the planet. His striking is getting solid and I heard he won a couple of jiu-jitsu tournaments in the summer.
“I love it when guys do that kind of thing and aren’t just satisfied to rely on just one discipline and are looking to improve and become a complete fighter. I’ll tell you, he’s such a talented guy, you can look at him in this tournament and say he’s a darkhorse who could win it.”
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