TORONTO – At 19, a pregnant Valerie (Trouble) Letourneau had a dream.
“I wanted to be the first female fighter (from Quebec) to step into the Octagon as a pro,” the Montreal native said. “Now my daughter’s 12 and there’s still nobody else.
“I had a few girls I was training with that I really thought were going to turn pro many years ago. But they got injuries or they decided to make a family. I’m still the only one.”
Letourneau (6-3) made her UFC debut in June 2014 when she won a split decision over Elizabeth Phillips at UFC 174 in Vancouver. She followed that up in April, moving to down to strawweight (115 pounds) from bantamweight (135) to win a unanimous decision over fellow Canadian Jessica Rakoczy at UFC 186 in Montreal.
That made her the first UFC female fighter to win in two weight classes.
On Sunday, Letourneau returns to action against Ukraine strawweight Maryna Moroz (6-0) in the UFC’s first visit to Saskatoon.
The main event at the SaskTel Centre pits Hawaii featherweight Max (Blessed) Holloway, ranked fifth among 145-pound contenders, against No. 7 Charles (Do Bronx) Oliveira of Brazil.
The televised card also features Canadian veterans Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout of London, Ont., and Montreal welterweight Patrick (The Predator) Cote.
Stout (21-11-1) is slated to make his 20th UFC appearance against Frankie Perez while Cote (21-9) steps into the Octagon for the 18th time against Josh (The People’s Champion) Burkman.
Other Canadians on the card are lightweights Chad (The Disciple) Laprise, Olivier (The Quebec Kid) Aubin-Mercier and Shane (Shaolin) Campbell, flyweight Chris (The Greek Assassin) Kelades, bantamweight Yves (Tiger) Jabouin and light-heavyweight debutante Misha Cirkunov.
Watch below: UFC fighters Max Holloway and Chad Laprise are ready for UFC fight night in Saskatoon taking place Sunday.
Now 32, Letourneau took up kickboxing as a teenager. That led to jiu-jitsu and other martial arts.
She won her pro debut in 2007 before losing to fellow Canadians Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis, both currently ranked UFC bantamweights.
Injuries have disrupted her career, however.
After the December 2007 loss to Davis, she fought just once in 40 months. A broken hand, concussion and two shoulder surgeries kept her on the shelf.
Letourneau and daughter Gabrielle call Florida home these days. The fighter headed south two years ago to train at American Top Team.
“I love the gym, I love the structure here,” she said. “We have so many girls to train with, so that’s awesome.”
“The weather also, of course.”
She is a full-time fighter. In Montreal, she was juggling her training, responsibilities as a parent as well as a job as a trainer.
Letourneau had spent 10 years training at Montreal’s Tristar Gym, eventually leaving because she was the only female pro fighter there and because she thought she needed new surroundings.
“I still talk to everybody at Tristar, I have a lot of respect for them. But for me, it really gives me a new vibe, a new energy to come to American Top Team.”
The five-foot-seven Letourneau moved down a weight class because she felt she was too small as a bantamweight. Given she was walking around at about 150 pounds at the time, the cut to 115 was severe.
Letourneau says she is making some changes this time.
“It’s always an adjustment. I’m trying some new stuff but I don’t want to change too much because I’ve got to know my body. It’s always going to be a hard cut. I’m not naturally walking even close to this weight.”
She has dropped her normal weight to 140 in recent months.
Maryna Moroz turned heads with a 90-second submission of Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood in April in Krakow, Poland. The brash 23-year-old then climbed atop the fence and called out world champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk who was watching cageside.
“I think that was a little immature, in my opinion,” said Letourneau, who nevertheless was impressed by Moroz’s performance.
© 2015 The Canadian Press