Former Ultimate Fighting Championship title challenger Valerie Letourneau is now bound for Bellator MMA.
The 33-year-old Letourneau has signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator and will complete in the promotion's developing 125-pound women's division. MMAFighting's Ariel Helwani initially reported that contract negotiations were nearly complete last Friday before confirming the signing on Monday. Sherdog.com corroborated the story with a source close to the fighter.
The Montreal native turned pro in March 2007 and fought largely as a bantamweight throughout her career. She made her flyweight debut in May 2014, knocking out Jordan Moore in just 34 seconds, but quickly wound up back at 135 pounds when she debuted in the UFC, defeating Elizabeth Phillips just one month later.
With the UFC having no women's flyweight division, Letourneau then cut down to 115 pounds for wins over Jessica Rakoczy and Maryna Moroz, earning her a title shot against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia in November 2015. Despite going the full 25 minutes with “Joanna Champion,” the loss started a three-fight losing skid for “Trouble.”
Letourneau returned in the UFC's first-ever women's 125-pound bout, but was brutalized in a second-round knockout loss to Scotland's Joanne Calderwood. Letourneau attempted to return to strawweight last December at UFC 206 in Toronto, but came in at 117.5 pounds and wound up losing a controversial decision to Viviane Pereira.
On March 3, Bellator MMA crowned its inaugural women's featherweight champion as Julia Budd knocked out Marloes Coenen in the fourth round, retiring the Dutch pioneer in the process. It is expected that the promotion will soon crown its first women's 125-pound champion as well; if Letourneau is inserted directly into a Bellator title fight, she figures to meet 6-0 prospect Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who has thus far been the focal point of Bellator's women's flyweight division.