Friends Liz Carmouche, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane embrace being foes – for one night only at Bellator 300

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SAN DIEGO – Friends and former teammates competing against each other is common in sports. Take the , for example, where each Sunday players are always up against guys with whom they used to share the locker room.

Like , football is a violent sport. Unlike MMA, there is no intent to injure with every tackle – only to bring the ball carrier down to the turf.

And therein lies the rub, the main reason why friends and training partners from the same gym don't like to compete against each other in MMA. The whole point is to hurt your opponent with every strike.

Bellator flyweight champion Liz Carmouche and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, however, view things differently ahead of their title fight Saturday at Bellator 300.

“Maybe I'm like a different kind of fighter, but I don't go into my fights purposefully trying to hurt the other person,” Macfarlane said Wednesday at the Bellator 300 pre-event news conference. “So it's really not a different mindset for me, the fact that I'm facing a friend and somebody I care about, because I don't ever want to hurt, hurt somebody. This is our lives. These are our bodies and our health. It really doesn't change the mindset for me.”

Added Carmouche: “It's definitely a different element. We're not looking to maim people, to take them out of their careers. That's the last thing we want to do, and it's nothing different here. The benefit we have is we know we're gonna throw down, and it's no malintent. There's no cheating going on. I can rest assured there's not some sneaky stuff where she's fish-hooking me in the mouth and all these other things.”

Wednesday's news conference and ensuing faceoff was filled with smiles and giggles from both Carmouche (19-7 MMA, 6-0 BMMA) and Macfarlane (13-2 MMA, 12-2 BMMA), who go way back as teammates at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego. Carmouche, now at The Arena in San Diego, and Macfarlane are excited to square off for Bellator gold.

And while they've gone at each other before in training, it's never been at 100 percent, which is something Macfarlane relishes.

“I'm not sure if we've ever gone super hundred percent before,” Macfarlane said. “That's what makes it fun and exciting to look forward to, just really feeling each other's true, true power.”

Much has been made about the fact that Carmouche and Macfarlane once spent countless hours training each other for fights and who could use that to their advantage Saturday night. But both believe it's been long enough – “two years at least,” according to Macfarlane – since they've trained together that their history is irrelevant from a strategy standpoint.

“If anything, I know her physical power,” Macfarlane said. “That's something that's never gonna leave her. I know that side of her. But as far as what she does in fights, she's constantly improving and changing.”

Added Carmouche: “We have the benefit of showing up Saturday night with new people, in front of each other, to show new games we have on the line to impress everybody with.”

The bond Carmouche and Macfarlane share was evident Wednesday. They are, indeed, still good friends, but they won't be friendly Saturday night. Bellator president Scott Coker expects any sentimental feelings to fade away once they step in the cage.

“I feel like it's all gonna be friendly until the bell rings, and then I think they're gonna go at it,” Coker said. “Once somebody gets punched in the face, it's all over and then it's gonna be on. Friendship is one thing, but this is a competitive fight at the highest level. This is a world championship fight, and I think it's gonna be great.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie's event hub for Bellator 300.

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