Valerie Letourneau’s fight with Joanne Calderwood was a bittersweet affair for the French-Canadian, who got to fight at her natural weight of 125 pounds, yet who lost via third-round TKO. And if that weren’t enough, she was dealing in wardrobe issues with her Reebok fight gear.
In that same third round, Letourneau at one point worried that she’d been exposed on broadcast television. To the naked eye, Letourneau could be seen grabbing her chest, which confused people into thinking she had been hurt. Not long later, she was hurt in a sequence that began with a hard body kick, and ended with a flurry of punches.
Letourneau, who was a guest on Tuesday’s edition of The MMA Hour, said her problems with Reebok gear wasn’t a new development.
"Even when I was warming in back, I changed twice, because I have three tops," she told Ariel Helwani.
"They told me in my championship fight [against Joanna Jedrzejczyk], they could see I was wearing another top under the official top. And they said, ‘you can wear something under but it needs to be behind under the official top.’ The official top is so low. Even if I wear something under, if you move the top a little bit it’s going to show my boobs. And all fight [against Calderwood] I was worried, I was pulling it, I was uncomfortable. And what happened was in the third [round], she literally pulled the three tops, and they went all the way down. I honestly thought that everybody saw my breasts until I could see my fight itself."
Letourneau said her reaction was based on mortification at the possibility of being exposed, not because she absorbed a big shot.
"So my face, I wasn’t hurt at all when she gave me the front kick to the face," she said. "And when I grabbed my chest, it wasn’t because I was hurt. It was just because I thought everybody saw my breasts. I was just very embarrassed. So that was one of the worst days I had. I don’t know what [Calderwood] told me, because we kind of spoke to me a little bit. She repeated something twice but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. So I just knew I needed to keep fighting. This isn’t something we should need to think about when we fight."
The 33-year-old Letourneau, who trains with American Top Team in Florida, lost her title bid back in November against Jedrzejczyk, and was looking to bounce back in her native Canada at UFC Fight Night 89. She said there was enough to think about in the course of a fight without having to worry about wardrobe malfunctions.
"When I lose this fight, it’s just something I need to talk about," she said. "Because this shouldn’t happen. It’s not something I should have to think about during a fight. And even for her, I’m lucky that she didn’t jump on me, when I kind of covered up my breasts because, first it would be embarrassing for me, but [ever] for her, she’s in the momentum."
"The good thing is I have a meeting with Reebok, they called me and apologized for everything that happened during the fight and hopefully we’re going to have better gear at Zuffa for the ladies, because there’s a lot choice for the shorts, but we have only one sports bra."
Letourneau, who will be in Las Vegas for International Fight Week and UFC 200 this week, traveled to Boston to speak to Reebok in person about her issues, and to provide input on how better to design the sports tops for women competing in the Octagon.
She said after how publicized everything became with the malfunction, she wasn’t surprised that Reebok reached out to her.
"In a nice way, yes, but I wasn’t surprised because I saw how big it became with the media, and I wasn’t expecting that," she said. "I was just mad when I saw something on my Facebook, because my daughter told me that…the commentator in French actually, I think it was Kenny Florian that was commentating in English and it was [translated] in French, and he was kind of making fun of me because I was complaining about being kicked in the breasts.
"I was really pissed off because I would never complain about something like that. I don’t care. I get kicked in the boobs everyday. I don’t even feel it. What was embarrassing for me was I don’t want to see my breasts on the big screen and everywhere in the Octagon, and that’s what was going on in my mind."
Given the confusion over whether she was actually hurt during the moment she worried about being exposed, Letourneau differentiated between the sequences.
"If you look at the third round, there’s one part when you see she does the front kick to the face, and I go to cover my breasts right away, and it wasn’t because of pain, it was just to cover my breasts," she said. "But the last sequence has nothing to do with that, I was really badly hurt."