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2018 was not the year that Bellator MMA women’s flyweight fighter, Alejandra Lara (8-3) had in mind. Losing both of her fights under the Bellator banner last year, one being a title fight with current champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Lara returns to Hawaii this Friday night taking on Veta Arteaga (5-3) at Bellator and USO Salute the Troops: Barnett vs Markes and hopes to get the win and a rematch with the champ in the new year. “That time I did that fight with Ilima; it was my second professional fight,” explained Lara. “I know the lack of experience was a big deal in that moment, but I feel more prepared now.”

But her talent and title shot weren’t the only things that put her on the MMA and world radar this year. For her last fight back in August, Lara used the Bellator 225 weigh-ins as a platform to bring awareness to the current crisis of rainforest burning in the Amazon jungle. Born in Columbia, Lara was pleasantly surprised by the reaction it got as the weigh-ins went viral that weekend. “I wasn’t expecting that kind of response,” said Lara. “I was expecting anything actually. I was doing what I felt like I had to do. That time it was the perfect timing because everything that was happening. That was the objective, to put those things in the minds people. I did that without thinking what would happen and it was awesome.”

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Since making her home away from home in Guadalajara, Mexico training since 2015 with the likes of current UFC stars, Irene Aldana and Alexa Grasso at Team Lobo, Lara knows that her being at that specific gym means so much more than just her getting better and making a name for herself there. “I love being here (in Mexico),” said Lara. “I love training in a Latino gym because it also helps to grow the sport here. I’m not just representing Columbia; I’m representing the Latino people and I feel very proud of that.”

And being away from home especially during the holiday season, Lara seems to understand the sacrifices that need to be made to get to where she wants to be in the sport. “I have a lot of time being without my family, but I’m prepared for that,” said Lara. “I’m here living here (Mexico) by myself, but that’s not a problem for me. I feel great doing this. I love to fight, and I love to train. It’s a little bit hard with the fight being in December but I had a lot of time this year and eating great, so it’s not a big sacrifice.”

In order to get the rematch with Macfarlane, Lara knows she must first get through Arteaga on Friday night. Arteaga is coming off a loss of her own against Macfarlane earlier this year, and having that in common, Lara still sees herself getting the win at the end of this week and with the fight being back in Hawaii, this will be the second time Lara fights there under the Bellator banner and is excited to go back. “Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii,” said Lara. I love Hawaii. I had a very good response from the people there, but I will fight anywhere. That’s not the important thing to me. I just have to give a great show. I’ve had a lot of time since my last fight in Hawaii and changing my preparation. I worked really hard in every area, I know that I improved my kickboxing and Muay Thai and wrestling. I know my fans are going to know that I’m really a different fighter. I just want to show all the work that I have done.”

A win from Lara this weekend will set up a likely rematch with Macfarlane early next year. And with the new year just around the corner, Lara is ready to show that the belt belongs around her waist in 2020. “I know that this fight is going to be awesome,” said Lara. “And after giving a great show I know they will consider me for that rematch, and I would love to do it because I know I’m a different fighter now. For next year I just hope to fight for the world title. I hope to keep doing the right things and keep doing this. I love to fight. This is a good life.”

Photo credit: Bellator MMA

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