March 17, 2019-New York, NY- On February 16, 2019 Master Valerie Loureda may have done more to change the place of Women and Taekwondo practitioners in the world of Mixed Martial Arts than any single individual has done to date. On that date, making her MMA debut at Bellator 216, this 20 year old Taekwondo Master, fighting out of Miami knocked out Colby Fletcher in the first round. After her victory was insured she immediately and emotionally put on her Taekwondo Dobak and thanked, among others, her beloved sport of Taekwondo, her masters, and her family.
Her finishing blow against Fletcher was the “shot heard round the Taekwondo World“. She, if even only for a moment, made the world take notice of the young, ebullient women that was trained first in Korea’s traditional martial art.
What was she thinking at that critical moment when her decisive victory solidified her place in Mixed Mart Arts’ and Taekwondo history? “I was RIGHT!” she told me emphatically. As she went on to explain to me, this was not a statement of arrogance but an attestation that, when she felt no one else believed in her, when no one else believed in her path to compete outside of Olympic Taekwondo sparring, she believed in herself, and the results spoke for themselves.
When we spoke about her gesture of putting on her dobok and recognizing the art and sport of Taekwondo it was clear to me that while she understood how meaningful it quickly became to the Taekwondo community that her reasons for doing it were much more personal. “Taekwondo has been my core, my roots, since 1985,” she reminded me. “It is where I came from and I wanted everyone to understand that when you train in REAL Taekwondo that anything is possible.”
Loureda comes from a distinguished Taekwondo family. He father is a respected Grandmaster in Miami, Florida. Her mother and her sisters all are accomplished practitioners and black belts in their own right. However, the world of Taekwondo and Mixed Martial Arts are very different. Historically, as Loureda has found out, the Mixed Martial Arts community has been dominated by men and the environment has not always been welcoming to female practitioners, particularly practitioners coming from the Taekwondo world.
As a Taekwondo Master Valerie Loureda understood, and understands, the importance of respect and perseverance. She employed those traits to set her goals, not only on personal victory but also on elevating the respect of women and Taekwondo practitioners in the MMA world. As she committed to her training regimen she quickly gained the interest and respect of her fellow MMA trainees. Her stance, unusual in Mixed Martial Arts, became somewhat of a phenomena, particularly, when it was so clearly connected to powerful and precise kicks, the hallmark of Taekwondo.
In the MMA training environment she began to do what she has become so associated with-teach. She began to teach other fighters her style of kicking, all while working feverishly on improving her hand techniques and her ground game. He Taekwondo base made the transitions to learning these other areas seamless and she soon developed a well rounded arsenal of hand, foot, and ground techniques which insured that her Bellator debut would be memorable and respectable, even if she was not victorious.
Victorious she was, however. 2 minutes and 55 seconds into the first round she scored a devastating blow and a TKO. This was more than just a debut fight for this passionate young woman. “This was my Olympics,” she told me. “I know people felt my passion. Training for this fight was no different than working from White Belt to Black Belt; it is the product of what we teach at Master Frank’s Dojang. Never Quit!. That is the difference between winning and losing“
So, what’s next for Valerie Loureda? What is her vision for the future of Taekwondo and her role in its growth? “I consider myself the Ambassador of Taekwondo into Mixed Martial Arts,” she humbly answered.”
A fine Ambassador she already is. We look forward to following the career of this passionate, feminine, tough-as-nails, fighter, teacher, student, daughter, sister, and role model.
Look out for Valerie’s next MMA fight expected in the next 4-6 months.
Story by Marc Zirogiannis-Editor-in-Chief