Bellator 181 comes to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., this Friday night (July 14, 2017) as Brandon Girtz and Derek Campos look to settle their score with a trilogy fight in the night’s Spike TV-televised main event after splitting two previous encounters over the last four years.
Earlier in the night, though, an important Bellator debut is taking place. A slew of female Flyweight fighters came to Bellator MMA in April, with Valerie Letourneau being perhaps the most instantly recognizable name. Many will remember that she challenged Joanna Jędrzejczyk for the Strawweight title at UFC 193, taking “Joanna Champion” to the limit in a five-round decision loss. Now, Letourneau gets to rebrand herself at a more natural weight of 125 pounds, but the 8-6 fighter doesn’t get an easy debut against Emily Ducote (5-2), who is fresh off a rear-naked choke of Katy Collins at Bellator 174 earlier this year.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Letourneau about the “Trouble” she plans to give all of her opponents in Bellator now that she gets to fight in a weight class better suited to her.
“It’s a true blessing. Like I’ve said, my weight cut at 115, I realized how crazy this was. I’m glad I did it because it brings me to that championship fight (with Jedrzejczyk) and I had a great experience, but my body could never ... I couldn’t do more of these weight cuts — especially at my age, it’s just killing my body.”
If that strikes you as odd given Letourneau is not that old at 34, she’ll tell you that it’s hard for anybody to cut, but twice as much so for a woman.
“I’m not old, but let me tell you, women know we don’t cut weight as easy as men. From my experience it’s so much easier for me to stay in a good shape and healthy (at this weight). I know my body, so this is experience that helps a lot with the weight cut. It’s hard to recover after a fight — it’s really not the same the older you get.”
That’s in addition to the already large physical toll a fight camp takes on the human body. Letourneau’s philosophy is simple — why kill yourself twice?
“Oh, it’s crazy! We train so hard, we try to bring our body to the best in conditioning, eat well, and next thing you know 24 hours before the fight you just forget it all. It just makes no sense. Fighters need to learn to fight in their natural weight class and focus on performing.”
In addition, Letourneau believes UFC should have had a 125-pound division for women long before it was announced for The Ultimate Fighter.
“Maybe they finally woke up just (in) time. There’s a reason why they decided to open that 125 weight class, because I don’t think it was their mind, they weren’t ready for this. But, their biggest mistake I think has been to open 145 before 125. There’s not many women there and actually you can see (that) they don’t even know who to give to ‘Cyborg.’ There’s so many women that want to fight at 125, it’s a much more natural weight class for women. Bellator was very smart to make this move first and find all these girls.”
Will it be as smart to start Letourneau against a tough fighter like Ducote? The more you hype up a debut, the bigger the chance it can backfire. Letourneau is scouting Ducote to avoid a letdown.
“Of course. That’s the first thing I did. I always watch everything I have for my opponent over and over so I get used to their style, timing and everything. She’s well rounded to me. I like the way she fights. That’s a girl that I mean, I have to fight her but you know there’s just some fighters that ... that’s my job I have to go and do it but I kind of really like this girl. I think she’s very talented — it’s a good challenge for me.”
There was no way Letourneau would have turned down a fight with anyone in the Flyweight division, though, whether she knew their reputation in advance or not.
“Just give me a fight, I’m ready to go. At the same time I have to be honest, I don’t watch fights on TV too much. If I have to fight someone then I’m going to watch tape, and I ended up knowing some other girls (in the division). Because I was fighting for the UFC obviously I knew more of the women in the UFC division, but I never really stopped myself and sit down and just watch random fights. I get to know these girls and I’m gonna get to know them even more, but I didn’t really have a name in mind when they gave me Emily.”
The most important thing for Letourneau is that she’s able to fight and train in a healthier way now, which she believes will combine to create a vastly superior performance.
“I feel awesome! I just keep building around what I already have and make it stronger, and not doing (the) little mistakes that sometimes can lead to (the) finish. I’ve been really focusing. We know with my coach what I’m good at and what I’m not so comfortable with, and we try to build on the positive to fight and just make my game stronger in every aspect. I just feel like a better version of myself.”
So how soon should an improved Letourneau fight to be the uncrowned Bellator Flyweight champion? In her opinion, pick anybody new who fights well and make it happen ... or perhaps give her a fight with Macfarlane.
“I would jump on it right away if I can. I have to feel like I deserve (a title), and if so it’s gonna depend on my performance with Emily. I think it’s the same for all these girls. I don’t know when they’re going to fight, but once we put on a show there and people see what we have and what we can bring, I guess we’re gonna pick some of these girls and make them fight for the title (but) I feel like Ilima-Lei (Macfarlane) is the one who deserves it most so far.”
The bottom line for Emily Ducote and the Flyweight division on July 14 is that “Trouble” is coming their way ... sooner than later.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Girtz vs. Campos 3” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.