Valerie Loureda, an MMA fighter with Bellator, has signed with WWE as the company continues its push to bring elite athletes into its developmental pipeline.
Loureda told The Post that talks were initiated when her manager, Abraham Kawa, was negotiating an NIL deal between WWE and NCAA champion wrestler A.J. Ferrari, and her name came up.
WWE, through its NIL program with college athletes and overall general strategy, is seeking to move away from bringing in indie wrestlers to its pipeline, instead signing star athletes who can be molded from scratch into the nuances of the wrestling business. This process is being overseen by executives James Kimball and Paul “Triple H” Levesque.
As part of this push, the 23-year-old Loureda was invited to watch WrestleMania from a suite this past April, and it was there that she fell in love with the pomp and circumstance.
“That was my first WWE show ever — I had never been to a live event,” Loureda said. “When I walked into the arena and saw the organization, the professionalism, the crowd and just the beautiful production that WrestleMania is — I just fell in love with it.”
Loureda watched WWE “here and there” growing up, but this was the first time she recognized the “magnitude” of their biggest event.
WWE says Loureda will begin at its Performance Center in Orlando in mid-July — as part of a class featuring over a dozen other athletes … and no indie wrestlers — and that the goal is for her to be on NXT TV by the end of the year.
Loureda was introduced to martial arts at an early age. She noted her father was an eight-time grand master in Taekwondo, and that she began training at 3 years old. Loureda also followed in her mother’s footsteps by taking up dancing and cheerleading.
It was watching Ronda Rousey, now a WWE superstar who was formerly the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, that inspired Loureda to pursue MMA.
“I was looking for a way to make it to the Olympics [in Taekwondo], and that didn’t happen, and then my mom got Leukemia, and our family had to adjust. And then, one day, I saw Ronda fighting on the TV, and I said, ‘Wow, that woman is in MMA representing her sport, Judo, and I can to that with Taekwondo,’” Loureda recalled.
Loureda, whose family left Cuba, strives to inspire other first-generation Americans of Latin descent that they can accomplish anything.
“Headlining WrestleMania is a dream and I’m gonna conquer that one day, but really my goal in WWE is I’m becoming the first Cuban-American woman, and I want to be a role model and an inspiration to young Latinas who can now see someone from their culture in WWE.
“I want to represent where I came from, my roots, and really bring a new edge into this company that’s never been seen before. This is a big win for Latinas all over the world. I was born and raised in Miami. I come from a family of immigrants. I just want to show young kids who are first-generation Americans that you can do anything as long as you apply yourself, and work very hard, and your dreams can come true — like me.”