Bellator MMA flyweight Valerie Loureda has said any rivals who see her penchant for posting bikini pictures on social media as a sign of weakness are in for a rude awakening as she prepares to make her cage comeback.

Loureda, 22, steps back into the Bellator cage this Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, where she will aim to improve on her unbeaten start in the professional ranks against Tara ‘The Tiny Terror’ Graff.

It will be Cuban-American fighter Loureda’s first fight since June of last year, when she claimed a unanimous decision win against Larkyn Dasch to improve her record to an unblemished 2-0 with the promotion.

A post shared by Master Valerie Loureda ? (@valerieloureda) on Jul 30, 2020 at 12:00pm PDT

A lengthy hiatus from the cage followed that fight, with a career detour to appear on reality TV show ‘Exathlon’ last year and then injury problems causing setbacks at the start of 2020, before Bellator was forced to shutter events for the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the promotion – and Loureda – is now back, and the taekwondo standout known as ‘Master’ said she will be ready come Friday night against the 1-1 Graff, despite truncated preparation time.

A post shared by Master Valerie Loureda ? (@valerieloureda) on Aug 2, 2020 at 9:02am PDT

“I didn’t know about this fight until three weeks ago and I didn’t have many training partners to do sparring and my jiu-jitsu,” Loureda told MMA Junkie’s Spanish-language podcast.  

“But I’m confident because I’ve been doing this since I was a child, so I have that muscle memory. These last few weeks, I’ve been doing the best I can to be ready to win and come out on top.

“I’ve used time to concentrate on what I want to do with my life. While many are eating and gaining weight at home, I’ve been working to be on weight and be ready for this fight.

“So I haven’t had many partners for this training camp, but I’m very confident in my level and the years of training in martial arts.”

The Miami-based American Top Team prospect counts the likes of former UFC strawweight ruler Joanna Jedrzejczyk as among her training partners, and is also a friend of men’s sensation Jorge Masvidal, who like Loureda has Cuban roots.

Loureda said she was hoping to blaze the same kind of trail for the community as Masvidal has, also paying tribute to his support. 

“I’m very confident I can be the next face to come out of Miami, the next female fighter. I don’t know any female fighter that is Cuban, and I’m very confident I could be the next one…

“I have the same coaches as Jorge, the same training, and I’m following his steps in the sport.

“He’s guiding me a lot. I’m very confident in my camp, in my team, my city behind me, and I’m going to win this fight for the Cubans here in Miami.”

Despite still being at a relatively early stage in her MMA career, Loureda is a well-established presence on social media, where she has fast-approaching 250,000 followers on Instagram.

A post shared by Master Valerie Loureda ? (@valerieloureda) on Mar 31, 2020 at 1:52pm PDT

It would not be stretching reality to say that Loureda has caught the eye of many of those followers due to her steady stream of bikini pictures and fondness for dancing to the camera.

That has led some female rivals such as UFC bantamweight Macy Chiasson to accuse her of “selling sex not MMA,” but Loureda said anyone – including upcoming opponent Graff – who thinks her social media output indicates weakness or distraction from her fighting goals is gravely mistaken. 

“She sees me on Instagram and she thinks I only post pictures, but she doesn’t know I train twice, three times a day, and like an animal. That’s my secret weapon. She thinks I’m weak – I’m just an Instagram model. But when I step in the cage, I transform,” she told MMA Junkie. 

And after having to showcase her life outside the cage during such a protracted hiatus, Loureda will finally have the chance again to prove what she is made of in fighting terms at Bellator 243 this weekend.