20-year-old Taekwondo phenom Valerie Loureda is looking to become the next big star in MMA when she makes her debut for Bellator this coming February 15th.
MMA fans are always on the lookout for that next big thing. That one fighter that will transcend the sport and become a household name the way fighters like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have been able to do.
In the world of female mixed martial artists, since the decline and departure of Rousey from the sport, a few names like Paige VanZant and Mackenzie Dern have been bandied about as possibly being able to find the same kind of mainstream appeal that Ronda Rousey has.
Heck, VanZant already parlayed her fast start in the sport into a spot on Dancing With The Stars. Unfortunately, since then she has gone 1-2 and now faces a fight against another up-and-comer in her first fight in over a year, thanks to a broken arm, against Rachael Ostovich on January 19th.
Dern, a former world number-one-ranked International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor, has so far (almost) lived up to her hype, sporting a career 7-0 record in MMA including two wins in the UFC – one of which unfortunately involved her not making weight.
And now, according to the fine folks over at MMAFighting.com, we have Valerie Loureda to add to the list of promising female MMA newcomers.
“Every day I step on the mat, and I bow,” Loureda told MMAFighting.com. “I just know this is what I was made for. I know I was born different. It’s always been like that. This is what I’ve been working for my whole life, is for a platform to recognize me and to give me the opportunities to share me to the world. This is in my blood — fighting is in my blood.”
She’s not kidding, either.
Her dad has owned and been the grandmaster of Master Franks Taekwondo Academy in Miami since 1985. Her mom, Mily, was testing for her black belt while pregnant with Valerie. Her sisters include an 18-year-old fourth dan master, like Valerie, and another who just received her black belt at the age of 11.
MMA fans also might have heard about Valerie a little sooner than today if life hadn’t gotten in the way.
“I was going to be a taekwondo fighter, but at the same time my mom wanted me to be very elegant and beautiful,” she says. “My mom, she made me that. In taekwondo back then, I’d have my ballerina leggings on under my taekwondo pants. I’d take those off and go straight to the competition for the dance team. That’s how it was…I choose taekwondo because I can’t live a day of my life without martial arts.”
Fast-forward to when she was 14 years old, and had already wowed the taekwondo circuit into paying close attention to her whereabouts. That’s when Valerie was preparing for the Olympic qualifier, giving herself fully to martial arts, and ready to do the family proud by representing the country. That’s when the mettle and resolve that she had pursued through the martial arts found her through the stark reality of daily life.
“One day we noticed my mom, she wasn’t doing well,” she says. “I had to learn how to drive on my way to taking her to the hospital. We found out she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, 90 percent developed in her bone marrow. That really changed our life. We’d never really had a trauma like that.”
As a result, Valerie, as the oldest sibling, had to set aside her Olympic aspirations to help her mom and the rest of her family. Luckily, her mom was able to have a successful bone marrow transplant and has been on the road to recovery for the past two years.
Now, after leaving Miami to join American Top Team, and competing in a handful of amateur MMA fights including the win below versus Hannah Jackson, Loureda believes she is ready to take the next step.
She has been training “three and four times a day” for the last couple of months, cramming in the other disciplines — the grappling, the jiu-jitsu, the scrambling, the clinch game, all of it — so that she can hit the ground running. Does it bother her that people are so dismissive of taekwondo as a relevant discipline in a mixed martial arts cage?
Master Loureda says no, not at all.
But then again, you know…she wants to prove them wrong.
“Taekwondo has never been relevant in MMA, and it’s always been looked upon as nothing beneficial to the sport,” she says. “People are like, oh taekwondo fighters, they get taken down, there are too many kicks, all of that, that taekwondo is just two minutes instead of five minutes.
“But if you really analyze it, taekwondo is the best base you can have in MMA. I believe that putting in my style people have noticed how taekwondo is efficient in MMA, and they’re trying to copy it. Now everybody wants to learn spin kicks, and now everybody wants to learn how to ax kick. Those are all ideas I’ve had in my head because I know they work. I’ve been doing them my whole life. It’s just the right person to come in and demonstrate it.”
We’ll all find out if she’s right when she makes her pro debut at Mohegan Sun on Feb. 15 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Read the entire fascinating piece on Valerie Louerda over at MMAFighting.com.