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Valerie Loureda recalls making guys cry, breaking ribs in taekwondo

The clip of Valerie Loureda in tears in the moments following her successful pro debut at Bellator 216 is likely to be replayed over and over again as she advances in her career.

But in her early days as a standout taekwondo competitor, it was her opponents who were usually crying after encountering Loureda. And it wasn’t just the girls either. Loureda told host Luke Thomas on a recent episode of The MMA Hour that her father, Frank, would find a way to put her in competition against the boys and the results would be just as devastating for his daughter’s opponents.

“Growing up, young age, I was always fighting in the national qualifiers and I was always winning, I would win the girls division,” Loureda said. “And after I would win the girls division because it was too easy for me, my dad would say, ‘Nope,’ and he would put me in the guys division, which you’re not even supposed to do.

“But I would be making the guys cry for qualifiers. My dad would throw me in there like if I was a guy and literally just fight and I would make them cry. I would back kick, break their ribs, and I would embarrass the men.”

Frank’s free-for-all attitude had Loureda uniquely prepared not just for her continued success in taekwondo, but her future as a 20-year-old MMA prospect. Now 1-0 with a main card Bellator appearance under her belt, Loureda has been putting in work with the highly-regarded American Top Team camp in Coconut Creek, Fla., and officials are banking on her skills and natural marketability combining to create a potential star.

It wasn’t always clear that Loureda would stick to this path, however. If anything, Frank was concerned when he saw that Loureda was losing interest in her dream of competing in the Olympics and he took her to an MMA gym to see just how serious she was about changing course.

It was an eye-opening experience for Loureda. And an encouraging one.

“He took me to an MMA gym in Miami, like another one in a corner, and he told the guy, ‘Hit her as hard as you can. Knock her out if you have to. Do whatever it takes. She needs to see if this is for her,’” Loureda said. “I’m there, I’m sparring, I didn’t even know what I was doing at that point boxing-wise or anything, and the guy spinning hook kicked me and I saw the stars. My dad thought I was gonna cry or just stop.

“I got up punching. I was blacked and I was throwing and trying to kick and come up and that’s when my dad was like, ‘Shit. She was born for this.’”

Loureda’s amateur career was brief, but she showed enough flashes in three fights last year to convince her coaches that she was ready to go pro. She described her last amateur win, a unanimous decision victory over Hannah Jackson as “a beautiful performance” and used the word “perfect” multiple times to describe her preparation during the fight week for Bellator 216 and the win itself.

That language and learning where Loureda comes from goes a long way towards explaining her elevated emotional state after knocking out Colby Fletcher.

“For so long I’m the only one in myself, even when I did taekwondo and I moved to MMA, my parents didn’t understand. Nobody understood, they were really just relying by what I was saying,” Loureda said. “I was like, ‘Just trust me. I have a feeling, I have a gut feeling that this is the right thing for me.’ And it’s one thing to believe in yourself and trust myself and train and be amazing every day, but it’s another thing to see the result.

“So when it happened, if you notice, all I keep saying is, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this. Oh my God, I can’t believe this,’ because I was in so much shock because it was exactly everything I said, word by word, is what happened.”

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