Ex-Bellator prospect Valerie Loureda has become her ‘true self’ as WWE’s Lola Vice

Valerie Loureda was becoming one of the most talked-about names in Bellator when she took the opportunity to participate in a tryout for WWE ahead of WrestleMania back in 2022.

A few days later, she signed a deal to join the professional wrestling organization and her fighting career was put on hold. While her athletic pedigree gave her a leg up on some of the competition, Loureda still had a lot to learn in WWE and there were no guarantees she’d find success in a brand new world. However, she felt it was a risk worth taking.

Today, Loureda stands by that choice more than ever. She’s adopted a new name, “Lola Vice,” and become one of the top prospects in NXT, the WWE’s developmental league.

“It’s crazy,” Loureda told MMA Fighting. “It’s a dream come true for me, honestly. Just this whole transition has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. A lot of fighters see pro wrestling and they’re like, ‘How hard could that be? We fight.’ When you get here, you realize not anyone could do it, and that’s why I’m in this position. The same passion that I put into MMA and Taekwondo, I put into the WWE.

“I remember when I first started training, I knew obviously I didn’t have the experience yet, I had so much to learn but I just always had a gut feeling I was going to be great at this. As long as I put the time and dedication into it, the outcome would be what it is now. But deep in my heart, the first time I ran the ropes, the first time I took a bump, I got goosebumps. I just knew this was for me, and I knew if I invested the same passion I did into MMA, that things would work out for me.”

Loureda appreciates the time she spent in MMA and the career she was building in Bellator before she got the chance to cross over into WWE. As much as she loved fighting, the 25-year-old performer always had designs on making the move into professional wrestling, she just never knew for certain that it would happen. Taking the chance on that tryout was akin to getting noticed on The Ultimate Fighter or competing on UFC’s Contender Series.

So far, it’s all worked out for her, and Loureda couldn’t be happier with the results.

“I was very young in my career and a lot of people ask me, ‘Why did you leave [MMA]?’” Loureda said. “I don’t know about you, but the moment you look at a WrestleMania in person and you see it, I think there’s no other option. The WWE’s just the top of the line. I fought in that cage for everyone else, and my true dream was [that] WWE would recognize me from MMA, and that happened.

“So when I got this call and I got this opportunity, I knew this was my time. Of course [I miss MMA], it was a part of me. But this is truly my destiny.”

On screen, Loureda — like all WWE superstars — plays a character, but she has embraced her new moniker as Lola Vice. She’s been able to let out more of her personality in the ring and on the microphone, which is a totally different world from fighting in MMA.

In many ways, Loureda feels more authentic now than she ever did with Bellator.

“This is my true self,” Loureda said. “Nothing changed from MMA to the WWE. I am Lola Vice. I’ve always been Lola Vice. When I was fighting in that cage before I even knew, I was Lola Vice. So I’m grateful that ‘Triple H’ [WWE Chief Content Officer Paul Levesque] saw that and recognized that and allowed me to be myself in this ring.

“I have so much to bring to the table. You guys haven’t even seen 20 percent yet of what I can do, and I think all these experiences are building me to be one of the greatest female sports entertainers of all-time.”

As a crossover athlete coming from a sport like MMA to WWE, Loureda had a brighter spotlight than the average prospect trying to learn pro wrestling.

She admits the road from rookie to legitimate prospect wasn’t easy, but now Loureda is being recognized for her talent with a roster spot at NXT and a high-profile matchup against ex-UFC fighter Shayna Baszler at the upcoming NXT Battleground card on Sunday.

Funnily enough, that event takes place at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, so in a weird way, Loureda gets to fulfill another lifelong dream she had back during her fighting career.

“I’m so grateful that it’s led me to this point and the first crossover with TKO with the UFC,” Loureda said. “When I was in Bellator, my goal was to fight in the UFC. But WWE was the top of the line, so I had to make this decision to come here and be the first Cuban-American woman [in WWE] — and now that my worlds are colliding, I just feel like I’m living my destiny and I was born for this.

“Fighting in the UFC was always something on my bucket list. It was something I wanted to do, but the WWE was my goal. Now I’ve been at the [WWE] Performance Center almost two years and we’re doing the crossover for the UFC and I’m fighting at the APEX. For me, it’s a dream come true. It’s an honor.”

Getting recognition from WWE to put her in a position like this only confirms that Loureda made the best choice for her career by moving from fighting to professional wrestling. She has to fight back the tears when addressing the support she’s been shown from fans, peers, and everyone else in her life during this endeavor.

“That means a lot to me,” Loureda said. “I’ve really worked for this and I sacrificed a lot to be here. I just got sentimental talking about this week. I’ve always been confident in myself, but to see other people recognize it and appreciate it, it’s very hard to go from what I did to this. I had just bought a house in Miami in MMA, and I just abandoned everything for this dream and this company.

“So to see people recognize me for that, I’m just grateful and I’m confident in myself. I don’t care — love me or hate me, it doesn’t matter. I will always be myself, and every time I step in that ring, I will always give you an amazing performance.”

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