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Valerie Loureda was emotional in victory, but found herself ‘crying all day’ before Bellator debut

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Of all the big names and potential fireworks fights at Bellator 216 on Saturday night’s main card, only one drew a raucous ovation from the assembled at the Mohegan Sun.

That was Bellator’s debutante Valerie Loureda’s TKO victory over Colby Fletcher.

The 20-year-old taekwondo master Loureda tried out an assortment of kicks on Fletcher, and ultimately landed one to the body that spelled the beginning of the end midway through the first round.

The official end came at the 2:55 mark of that opening frame. Afterwards, Loureda stood with her family in the Bellator cage and cried tears of joy as she thanked those that had helped pave the way for her.

“I think it’s less about emotion for me, and more about the passion I have for this,” she said in a post-fight media scrum. “People truly don’t understand this is what I’ve breathed since I was a girl. This is in my blood. So, I was just so passionate about this moment, and I’ve been thinking about this exact moment for the past four months, since I found out I’d be fighting for Bellator. I’ve been scripting it in my head how it’s going to go, and how it needs to go, and I put in the work for this fight to turn out the way it did.”

Loureda overcame a tumultuous childhood in Florida, in which she cared for her ailing mother, Mily, and took care of her younger sisters from the age of 14. Through it all she trained in taekwondo under her father’s instruction at Master Franks Taekwondo Academy in Miami, earning her blackbelt before she ever reached her teens.

As a taekwondo sensation who used to do a weekly technique segment with her dad on local television in Miami, she said she was well-accustomed to the spotlight coming into her pro debut.

“Being in the amateurs, it was amazing as well, but I just knew I was the type of person — the more pressure, the more lights, the more cameras, the better for me,” she said. “I’m a true performer, I’m a true martial artist and I just knew that if I was given this opportunity I was going to take advantage of it and show the world who I really am.”

Nevertheless, Loureda wasn’t without jitters. She admitted as much when talking about the hours preceding the fight at the Mohegan Sun.

“I had butterflies all week, but I was very calm because I knew the camp that I had, and I kept saying in my head there’s no way you’re coming out of this fight losing,” she said. “It’s not possible. So that really just eased me.

“But, today, in the morning I woke up and I was just crying all day. I was like, I need to take Advil, I have a headache, I need to stop crying. I was crying all day because I was so excited that the moment was finally here. I got very nervous, started doubting myself, but I was like, ‘no Valerie, this is your time, no one’s going to take this away from you, you’ve been working your whole life for this.’”

The fight had a steady clip of action from the opening moments. Fletcher, using a jabs and straight kicks, worked the middle early as Loureda settled into her range. She was able to land a couple of shots on Loureda in the initial exchanges, up until Loureda connected with a right hand to body kick combination that sent her to the canvas.

Fletcher’s eagerness to exchange caught Loureda off guard, but she said she was able to make the adjustments on the fly.

“I feel like I didn’t expect [Fletcher] to come in so aggressive right off the bat,” she said. “She didn’t give me time to think about what I wanted to do as a strategy. So I was like, well, I’ll just have to fight and that’s what I did. I did what I had to do. She did come in very strong and I didn’t expect that so quickly, but I was able to manage it, then start finding my distance. I was like, wait wait wait, no, I’m going to take the pace here.”

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