Women in MMA often have a specific set of challenges when it comes to navigating the marketing side of their MMA careers. Rose Namajunas made an impact with many fans when she took even the simple move to shave off her long hair and rock a buzz cut—a style she’s worn through the entirety of her time in the UFC. “It’s a fight not a beauty pageant” she wrote on Instagram back in 2015, revealing her new look.
And while some women in the sport may see mixed martial arts as a place to firmly push back against gender norms and expectations, that’s not necessarily the sentiment across the board.
“I’m not saying that I’m anymore attractive than anyone else, so please don’t get that twisted,” Miesha Tate told Bloody Elbow back in 2017. “But I do play more into my feminine side and I am comfortable doing that. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and there’s also nothing wrong with being the other way, being a tomboy.”
It’s the kind of sentiment Tate expressed that seems to resonate in Bellator prospect Valerie Loureda’s recent comments concerning the way she markets herself on social media. A former ballerina, Loureda often posts videos of herself dancing and posing for the camera. But after receiving some criticism for her public image, Loureda wants to make it clear that what she’s doing is just an honest expression of who she is.
“I don’t do anything for social media,” Loureda told reporters at the Bellator 243 virtual media day (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I do things for myself. For example, I am an extreme girly-girl outside of the cage. So the way that I market myself, it’s not for social media and it’s not for men. This is the way that I look. I’ve worked my whole life to have this body, to have this figure—I was a ballerina, I’ve been a martial artist.
“I think that’s where people mistake. It’s not for social media. I am the way that I look like, but I’m also a fighter. What does one thing have to do with the other? Just because I look different than other martial artists doesn’t make me any different. It’s my identity, this is why Valerie Loureda is different.”
Some of the criticism of her public image has even come from other women fighters. UFC bantamweight standout Macy Chiasson quote-tweeted one of Loureda’s videos in a now-deleted post, writing “Is this the message we want to continue to convey to not only our future leaders but to the disgusting already misogynistic dudes out here. Are we here to fight and be role models or are we here for male followers and strip teases. #bringwmmaback”
Loureda responded to women fighters who take issue with her posts, saying it was “just jealousy.”
The 2-0 flyweight fighter is set to take on 1-1 Tara Graff on the prelims of this Friday’s Bellator 243 event, headlined by a lightweight rematch between former UFC champion Ben Henderson and former Bellator champion Michael Chandler. The two men first faced off back in 2016, with the Bellator title on the line. The co-main event will be a heavyweight fight featuring former UFC talents Matt Mitrione and Tim Johnson.