Valerie Loureda sent a message to her critics this past Friday night. We all saw the finish and the celebratory dance, but we didn’t see the adversity she had to overcome to get to her third professional win.
Loureda put away Tara Graff as the second round came to an end at Bellator 243. “Master” landed a beautifully timed right cross to drop her opponent and followed up with some nasty ground-and-pound to earn her second finish in the Bellator cage.
Between the trash talk from Graff, other fighters and fans, Loureda felt a huge, yet gratifying weight lifted off of her shoulders.
“I think it was so satisfying for me because there was so much negative talk before my fight,” Loureda told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I hadn’t fought in a long time so it looked like a social media thing, but I was training so hard.
“It was really frustrating for me just hearing what people would say, the Twitter beefs that I had about my TikToks and the way I am, it just made it that much more satisfying and I had to be that much more petty after my fight.”
The 22-year-old began her pro career with two promotional wins in 2019. Loureda stopped Colby Fletcher in the first round of her debut at Bellator 216 and picked up a unanimous decision win over Larkyn Dasch inside Madison Square Garden at Bellator 222.
Graff’s constant trash talk in pre-fight interviews and on social media was just one of the many things Loureda had to overcome en route to her second professional stoppage win.
“I was really, really nervous because I had faced a lot of adversity before that fight and I almost pulled out,” Loureda said. “I had a chip on my shoulder and, on top of that, I felt I had so much to prove. I also felt like if I could go through what I went through and come out winning, come out doing something spectacular, this would prove to me that I could go through anything in my life and still be successful in my career.
“So I had a chip on my shoulder, I was petty, and I don’t say anything. I stay very quiet until the opportunity I had to destroy her face in the cage and that’s what I did.”
The American Top Team 125er has dealt with past opponents’ attempts to get under her skin. It’s part of the fight game. When it came to Graff—and one specific comment in particular—the bout became very personal by the time the cage door locked.
“She said that the way I promote myself was demoralizing to the sport,” Loureda stated. “When I heard that, it was over for me. I’m crazy and I was gonna go in there to kill her. I wasn’t gonna just hit her soft, it was to kill her.
“I don’t take that and I didn’t want to do anything over social media first. I wanted to make it seem like it didn’t get to me because I’m an emotional person and I can be an emotional fighter. I wasn’t letting it get to me until I got in the cage. I got in the cage, proved my point, I shut her up and shut a lot of people up.
“This girl was harassing me, literally, every day since January since I had to back out of our fight because of a torn MCL. Every day I would open Twitter and see her stupid name, every day she would post stuff, at me and stuff, and it was just annoying. She was so annoying and I was so excited to just break her face. I’m so happy I don’t have to see her name come up anymore.”
After the fight, Loureda’s manager Abe Kawa took to Twitter and revealed that his fighter was dealing with a lot of extra emotions heading into Bellator 243. One of which was a car accident that took place on a Florida highway the night before she was scheduled to leave for Connecticut.
Yeah. It’s ok to feel good doing what you love when some bad stuff leading up to your 3rd pro fight happens. The car wasn’t even the worst of it pic.twitter.com/5fmIXlyOCf— Ibrahim Kawa (@Abraham_kawa) August 8, 2020
In addition, Loureda was dealing with a personal problem that she isn’t ready to discuss quite yet. For any fighter, getting into a collision with a tow truck will send your mind in a million different directions.
“The day before I left I had just finished training at American Top Team,” Loureda explained. “I was close to the weight that I normally leave at, I took a shower after training, I blow dried my hair and I was on the way back from Coconut Creek. I was on the highway and there was a merge. I was in front of a guy and there was a huge, huge, huge, tow truck. He was driving super fast and he tried to pass me on the merge. I freaked out because I had no more space and I tried to break but he didn’t realize that my car was there.
“His whole back of his truck hit me and I went spinning in the side of the rail. I broke as hard as I could, and braced as hard as I could and I stopped right before the metal. I swear to god, if I didn’t do that, I would’ve flipped or something. I got hit on the whole side of the car—super strong impact.”
As everything continued to pile on, Loureda admits she was close to pulling out of the fight. Luckily, she was able to have a pair of important conversations that led to her telling Kawa she was going to make the walk despite all that had happened.
“As I was bracing myself as hard as I could, all I could think about was getting my hand raised,” Loureda said. “Like, this can’t be happening to me. It was just really bad. On top of that, I had to wait three hours for the cops and the ambulance. I was like, ‘there’s no way I can win this fight when something like this just happened. I’m supposed to leave at 8 a.m. and it’s 9:00 at night.
“I’m like, ‘I can’t be dealing with this right now. I can’t be thinking about this right now. There’s a girl who wants to get in the cage to break my face and I’m dealing with a problem like this. I didn’t think I’d be able to pull through because it was just so much. It was bad. Then I spoke to a sports psychologist and my manager’s sister and they talked sense into me. They said, ‘Valerie, things like this happen to everybody,’ because I thought this was a sign from God telling me not to fight.
“I thought, ‘Valerie, if you can overcome something like this and go into the cage, nobody has to know anything. Pretend like it didn’t happen. Put those emotions to the side and use them in the cage. Transfer that energy into the cage,’ and that’s exactly what I did.”
While Loureda dealt with a lot on the short term, it only added to a long list of things she’s had to deal with in the long term. The most important thing in her life is her family, and with Loureda going through so much, her mother having to deal with a lot of adversity in her own right, she wholeheartedly believes it’s molded her into the person she is today.
“I feel so much peace after this fight,” Loureda said. “I proved a lot to myself which is most important. After this fight I know I can face anything in my life. My mom was a leukemia survivor and that’s what I kept telling myself. I just knew that, even though I’m really young, I had to mature in that moment, take control of my life and my career, and just do it. I’m gonna win and there’s no plan B.
“From not fighting for over a year, going on the reality show, losing so much weight, having that problem I had, having my car crushed, my parents went through a huge divorce last year—a lot of people don’t know that—it was just so many life changes at a young age when I’m trying to be something in my career, I could’ve lost myself.
“I’m just so proud that I was able to keep that one thing in focus and that’s what I really want for myself. I want to show the world that I’m a high class martial artist, that I’m a competitor, going through what I’ve gone through I trained as much as I could, I lost the weight, I did everything right. I did face a lot heading into this fight.”
The right cross that started the finishing sequence made highlight reels all over the MMA community. But it was the celebration that went viral. Loureda began screaming with excitement after the referee waved the fight off and then broke into one of her infamous dances that have rubbed some people the wrong way over the last several months.
Loureda admits that she was taking a silent shot at her haters and she doesn’t care if people don’t like it.
“People were talking so bad to me before the fight but if they only knew what I’ve been through at my age, and how hard it’s been for me to get here. My family isn’t rich. I’ve done this all myself and it’s all been for my family and my legacy. Here I am. This fight was just emotional. People who don’t know the background won’t understand why I danced like that but I did that because I’m petty.
“You talk sh*t about my dancing, I’m gonna do dancing TikToks after. That’s just the way I am. It was such a satisfying feeling but I asserted myself as a competitor. What I do at the gym, I know who I am. I’m not gonna let anyone tell me otherwise. I know what I can do in this sport and I know I can be the champ.”