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For Bellator 201 winner Valerie Letourneau, title shot is the only way – in Hawaii is fine

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TEMECULA, Calif. – For flyweight contender Valerie Letourneau, Bellator 201 turned out to be a pretty stellar night.

Faced with a gritty, game opponent in fast-rising Kristina Williams, Letourneau (10-6 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) got her second Bellator win Friday. She proceeded to call for a title shot right afterward and, judging by champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s immediate response, it would appear she got it.

But what could’ve happened had Letourneau not emerged victorious from the judges’ scorecards just goes to show what a difference 15 minutes can make in the life of a pro fighter.

Especially one who, at 35, has been doing it for more than 10 years.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, yes (I thought about retiring),” Letourneau said. “And this is why I get so emotional. I don’t want to stop, but I don’t want to be fighting just to fight. It’s too much. My daughter is 15; since she was born I’ve been fighting. I’m missing so many important things. I’m really reaching for this belt, but fighting just to fight? I would be done.

“So for me to move backward? There’s a lot of hungry girls that, they want to fight. They want to get this belt. I cannot afford to move backward. It’s not because I’m done, I’m finished, I cannot do this anymore. It’s just because it wouldn’t make sense for me anymore.”

Letourneau’s emotion was clear as she celebrated her hard-earned win over Williams (2-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA). It’s highly understandable, too, given the flyweight contender’s approach to each bout as if “it can be a championship fight or it can be my last fight.” Thankfully, at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, it turned out to be the former.

Heading into the flyweight bout, which was featured in the same main card as Macfarlane (8-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) successfully defending her title opposite Alejandra Lara, it was apparent that the winner would likely be next in line – especially if that winner turned out to be Letourneau. So it really wasn’t that much of a surprise when “Trouble” asked for her shot – or when the champ later acquiesced.

With that much settled, Macfarlane had one request: That the bout takes place in her native Hawaii. Bellator President Scott Coker weighed in later, explaining that, while there are technical challenges to be dealt with, it wasn’t out of the question.

For Montreal’s Letourneau, that would mean venturing into hostile territory – which she’s done in both her Bellator outings, against England’s Kate Jackson in Newcastle and now Williams in the U.S. But Letourneau, who got to challenge for Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s UFC belt all the way in Australia, thinks it’s only fair that the champ gets to set her turf.

“I would fight her wherever I have to,” Letourneau said. “But my goal is to grab this belt and fight in Canada. One thing at a time. When I hold this belt, I should be fighting in my own country. This is the plan. But I’m happy I’m getting this shot. I’ll respect. I’m going to go fight her in her (home state). I have no problems with this.”

Letourneau watched Macfarlane’s defense in the night’s headliner and praised the champ’s intelligence and ability to take the fight where it needed to go. While Macfarlane isn’t the most technical striker, she reasons her skills are solid enough to make sure it’s enough to set up her own game. Ultimately, she has respect for the champ and believes it’s mutual.

Respect was also a key element in her meeting with Williams. At no point in the lead-up to the fight did things take a turn toward animosity. Luckily for the fans, the exact opposite happened once the cage door closed – Letourneau’s purple, swollen eyes as proof.

While it’s not that common for 2-0 fighters to go up against respected veterans in high-stakes bouts with title implications, that’s where Williams was. Letourneau, though, doesn’t think her opponent’s inexperience made her undeserving of being there. In fact, had Williams come out victorious, “Trouble” believes “Warhorse” would be deserving of a title shot herself.

Unfortunately for Williams, that’s not what happened, but at least she got some serious praise from an opponent who knows a thing or two about fighting.

“She is a natural born killer,” Letourneau said. “This girl, OK, she reminds me a lot of me. I was watching her. She doesn’t speak too much, something is going on when she fights. I could tell in her eyes when I was fighting her, something is coming outside of her, and she’s in her zone.

“She’s going to keep improving her game. There’s something you cannot teach; it’s what she’s got. You can train as much as you want. We see talented fighters all the time in the gym. They get to fight. Suddenly they can’t fight. I think she’s probably the opposite. Good for her, I wish her the best for the future, but it was my fight tonight.”

To hear more from Letourneau, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of Bellator 201, check out the MMA Events section of the site.



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