Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kim Boucher: Valerie Letourneau "Mixed Martial Arts are my passion... I can’t live without it!"

Kim Boucher - Tristars Valerie Letourneau is Ontario’s very first victorious female fighter. She competed at Freedom Fight in Sudbury Ontario on September 10, 2011 in a rematch against Halifax’s Tannaya Hentlemen. Letourneau won the battle at 2:07 of the second round by TKO improving her professional Mixed Martial Arts record to 4-2.

Valerie “Trouble” has been competing professionally since 2007 and has faced some tough opponents such as Sarah Kauffman. She is very well known and liked in her home province of Quebec having been on some amazing cards and fighting for organisations such as Ringside MMA.’s Kimberley Boucher had a chance to speak to Valerie after her win at Freedom Fight as she took the time to talk about her most recent win as well as life as a female Martial Artist. How do you feel about being Ontario’s first victorious female fighter?

Valerie Letourneau I’m extremely happy, but the fight finished so quickly! My training didn’t go 100% as I would have liked; it wasn’t my longest preparation, I got four weeks’ notice for this fight and the t had ended that quickly. It was a lot of preparation for very little time in the cage. Opponent changed at the last minute therefore, it was very stressful for me. I always want to perform to the best of my abilities and do things well. In this situation I felt that it was not possible for me to deliver my best, therefore I was very relieved when the fight. After the fight you seemed a little disappointed about how quick it finished; can you explain what was going through your mind at that moment?

Valerie Letourneau I always have funny expressions (laughs) I think since my very first fight I always look so serious. It’s just that there are so many emotions that go through you all at the same time, Sometimes it’s hard to understand our own emotions. Certainly we always want our fights to finish quickly...Just as sometimes I could never visualise myself going three rounds in certain battles...I train for, it but I always have the feeling that the fight will end much sooner. In this fight though I really had a feeling that it was going to go the distance and be a war; because I fought Tannaya in 2006 and I remember that she was very good. It was her first fight and my first as well. I do remember that she had done very well in the first round. I finished that fight again with my left round house kick, but she had been very tough. I really thought it would go longer and finish differently, but it’s good for me for sure. I’ve studied most of your fights and it seems that your opponents are often shocked by the power you generate with your left kick; Is that particular kick something that you have worked on for a long time?

Valerie Letourneau Well...That kick... (laughs) Even when I was an amateur in kickboxing competitions at 15, 16, 17 years of age, I’ve always had a strong left leg. That kick has always come out automatically for me; I don’t even have to think about it. I do think though that from training all the time, always training the same things that my kicks must have gained some power over the years. I went to train in Thailand last year and just the repetition of always practicing those things; you do get better at what you do. My left leg was always strong, even in my fight against Julie Malenfant, I won that fight the same way. I also fought Sarah Kauffman and managed to knock her down with that kick in the first round. It’s always my left Round house kick that does the trick, it’s just automatic. What was your overall impression of the by the Freedom Fight organisation and the population of Sudbury?

Valerie Letourneau Oh, I was treated very well! I was pleasantly surprised. I try to not let all that stuff mess with my focus. I stay far enough away from the media and I try not to go look at all the blogs out there. As much as what people say can be positive, it can also be negative, I try to stay neutral and I had really no idea how the people of Ontario would treat me or if they would be nice to me. My former opponent was a native of Sudbury, it really was her backyard and I’m French from the Province of Quebec, therefore I really had no idea what to expect. I just told myself that I would follow my game plan, perform to the best of my abilities and not let myself loose focus because of all that stuff. However, I was so surprised! I noticed right away the fans down there were so into the action, right from the very first fight, they were really into it and that’s great for the sport and it was a lot of fun to be a part of. I was at that fight and I have to say I was very impressed with the energy and response of the crowd.

Valerie Letourneau Yes, you know I fought three times at the Bell centre in Montreal and I have to tell you that I really dislike the introductions, when the announcer says your name and all that. This time I was really touched by the crowd’s reaction, they said my name and I lifted my arm and the fans were yelling like crazy, really cheering me on...I have to say that that was the first time that I was so aware of the energy of the crowd. It was a great experience. What’s next for you and your career? Is it down time now?

Valerie Letourneau No, I really don’t feel like relaxing at all! That fight finished very quickly, i only had a four week training camp and there are so many more things that I want to do and learn. I think my training camp will just continue and hopefully I will get a call for a fight in the next month or two. I don’t want to take a break. When I got the call for this fight I was on vacation...I usually spend my whole summer with my daughter it’s really her time. I was taken from my vacation for this fight in Sudbury, my time off is over now therefore I just want to continue where I left off. I want to continue improving my skills. You’re a female fighter in a male dominated sport; Do you feel that there are a lot of opportunities for women to compete in this sport?

Valerie Letourneau There aren’t that many good opportunities for women to fight however, I do think that I have been very lucky to be placed on some excellent cards which have been well publicized. The only thing that has slowed me down in my career was injuries. I have great opportunities with some good quality fights, however I do realise that these opportunities are not to be taken for granted because we do have fewer chances to fight then the men. Do you have a good variety of female training partners?

Valerie Letourneau In Mixed Martial Arts I don’t have any female training partners, at Tristar it is all men that train. When I do my sparring twice a week I’m the only woman there. There are many more men that fight in the 135 pound weight class therefore that’s great for me. Of course the guys will always be stronger then I am, however, when you have a sparring partner like Ivan Menjivar and Yves Jabouin you can’t ask for better than that. These guys are just so good technically, I had to get used to training at that level. I try to find various girls in individual disciplines like kickboxing and boxing, but for MMA specifically sparring, I train with the men. Competing in Mixed Martial Arts is very difficult and takes great commitment; what inspires you to work so hard in order to continue in this sport?

Valerie Letourneau Well...Sometimes I ask myself that same question (laughs) one thing that I know for sure is that I just can’t stop doing this. In the past in my career there were times when I truly thought it was over. I had a big shoulder surgery two and a half years ago and I really thought that it would never heal enough for me to continue competing in this sport. I really had to deal with that possibility. Well let me tell you; the second that I knew I could do Martial Arts again that’s exactly what I did (laughs) I just can’t see myself living without it. It’s really hard to explain to people because there are a lot of injuries and a lot of consequences; it takes an immense amount of time to learn everything you need to know in MMA. It’s a passion; you just really have to have it inside of you. It’s like a painter that loves to paint or someone who loves to run. They wake up in the morning and practice, practice, practice in order for them to get better at what they do. That’s how it is when you love something to that point, its crazy I know but that’s how I feel. I will do this as long as I love it and as long as I can. Sometimes I feel like I need a break, so I just step back from it, take some time to rest and go back to it when I’m ready, because MMA is so hard and so demanding on a person physically and mentally you really have to want to be there in order to get it done.

Kim Boucher: We thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Is there anything you would like to add to the conversation?

Valerie Letourneau I’d really like to thank all my sponsors for supporting me; Cheetah Energy Drinks, Razorwear MMA and Le Club Downtown. I also would like to thank a long time supporter Chris Beauchamp; he has sponsored me for my last three fights and has a lot of confidence in me. I can’t forget my strength and Conditioning coach and my partner Larry Vinette as well as my coach and corner man in Sudbury Eric O’Keefe

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