Valerie Loureda could only sit on the sidelines for so long.
The fiery Miamian remembers her early impressions of the women competing in cagefighting and they were upsetting, to say the least. A taekwondo master, Loureda would watch as other female fighters became stars, fighters that she didn’t see as being out of her league.
Loureda recently made a successful pro MMA debut at Bellator 216, defeating Colby Fletcher by first-round TKO. That validation was a longtime coming for Loureda, who told Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour that she knew she had to make the jump to MMA when she saw women taking advantage of opportunities that she could be claiming herself.
“The women fighters, I saw the way they were being recognized for being pretty and fighting and I was like, ‘You’re joking.’ And then my blood was boiling, you can ask my family, I was trembling,” Loureda said. “I was watching the TV and I was like, ‘No, please don’t tell me’ — I was just insulted.
“I was insulted because I know that I was born for this and feel like I am the most well-rounded female martial artist and I will be the best and I just knew it and I’ve always known it since I was little. There’s no one else that could possibly have fighting in their blood the way that my dad raised me to fight, there’s no way. I just wanted to get in there as fast as I could so I just started training four times a day like an animal, catching up, learning jiu-jitsu, just being so hard on myself to get to this level as soon as I can because I deserve to be here.”
The 20-year-old Loureda has found a home with the accomplished American Top Team Gym in Coconut Creek, Fla., and she’s been doing everything in her power to get up to speed in her new sport. It wasn’t long ago that Loureda had hoped to take her taekwondo skills to the Olympics, but her priorities shifted when her mother was diagnosed with leukemia (Loureda’s mother is currently undergoing radiation and was in attendance at Bellator 216). Loureda was 14 at the time and it was on her to take on more responsibilities in the household for her younger sisters.
In addition to handling personal matters, Loureda was also losing her passion for the modern taekwondo scoring system, which she felt herself growing out of. Seeing how the spotlight shined on female fighters in the MMA world was the push she needed to fully shift her goals.
“I just realized that it wasn’t the Olympic dream that was my dream,” Loureda said. “My dream was to make it to a platform that would recognize me because I knew I was special and different and taekwondo’s very point-style and it was just not my style anymore.
“I saw MMA on the TV and I was like, ‘How can those women be recognized for fighting and I devoted my whole life to this? I could fight like that, I could be better than them, I could win there.’ And that’s when my hunt started to be the best.”
Loureda took three amateur fights, going 2-1 with each outing being determined by the judges. She’s grateful that she was able to log as much cage time as possible before being discovered by Bellator and signed to a pro contract.
Now that she is in the major leagues, Loureda wants to be recognized for more than her growing brand or her Instagram page. She knows that it doesn’t matter if there are other aspects of her persona that Bellator wants to push, she won’t last long if she doesn’t perform on fight night.
“The thing is that I don’t want to be recognized for being marketed because before anything, I’m a fighter, and I’ve always told myself this: ‘Valerie, yes, you can be pretty. You can be a woman. You can be feminine. But if you don’t win, if you don’t knock out, if you don’t fight there, you’re no one in this sport.’ So that’s always been the biggest thing in my head,” Loureda said. “I need to be the best fighter. Anybody in front of me I have to beat. That’s why everyday in training, I train until failure. I train to put myself in the worst positions so that I can overcome that in a cage.
“I’m not just a pretty face and that’s what I’m trying to tell the world. Yes, that’s who I am, I love everything perfect. I love my banner, I love being creative with my brands because it’s my Loureda signature. But I am an amazing fighter and anybody that’s trained with me my whole life whether it be taekwondo or now knows that I’m a true martial artist.”