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Canadian MMA fighter Valerie Letourneau goes after Bellator title in Hawaii

Canadian MMA fighter Valerie (Trouble) Letourneau went halfway around the world last time she fought for a title.

While she only had to go to Hawaii this time, she will find herself on hostile ground Saturday night when she faces Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei MacFarlane, a local, at Honolulu's Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

The 35-year-old from Montreal isn't fazed. Like most Canadians, she savours a winter trip to the islands.

"I cannot complain about this place. How can ask for a better place to fight than Hawaii?" she said with a laugh. "It's a dream place to go ... Also I think she deserves to fight in her place. She's been promoting (Hawaii) in every fight.

The Honolulu-born MacFarlane (8-0-0) is making her second title defence at 125 pounds.

Letourneau (10-6-0) has won both her Bellator bouts to date at flyweight after going 3-3-0 in the UFC.

Letourneau competed in three weight classes in the UFC: strawweight (115 pounds), flyweight (125 pounds) and bantamweight (135 pounds). She says flyweight is the one that works best for her.

Her flyweight UFC fight was a one-off bout at that weight, a third-round TKO loss to Joanne Calderwood in Ottawa in June 2016.

"I think I should have always fought at this weight," she said. "That's the perfect weight for me. I'm still cutting weight but just enough to be healthy for the fight and focus on my camp and performing, not just cutting weight and not gaining too much muscle.

"The whole focus was on the weight cut at 115. It was terrible. And at the same time at 135, I'm looking at the girls now — they're so big."

Letourneau, who trains mostly at American Top Team in Florida, fought for the UFC strawweight title in November 2015 in the co-main event of UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia, losing a five-round decision to then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

The Canadian called the fight the "most amazing experience" of her fighting career.

Attendance at the Etihad Stadium was 56,214, erasing the UFC's previous record of 55,724 for UFC 129, which took place in April 2011 at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

"The whole thing was such a crazy experience for me. I'm never going to forget this one," she said of the Australia card.

"How can I ask for better things for me? For 20 years of fighting, having a second chance to fight for the belt — in my natural weight class," she added. "And now ... Hawaii.

"If you asked me when I was younger which (places) you would like to visit and I would most likely have said Australia and Hawaii."

She lost a split decision to Viviane Pereira in her last UFC outing. The Pereira bout was fought at a catchweight after Letourneau missed the strawweight limit by 3 1/2 pounds at UFC 206 in Toronto in December 2017.

Letourneau, a trailblazer among Quebec female fighters, took up kickboxing as a teenager. That led to jiu-jitsu and other martial arts with many years spent training at Montreal's Tristar Gym before moving to Florida.

She and her partner Hector Lombard, a UFC fighter in his own right, also train at their own gym in Coconut Creek, Fla. 

In Saturday's co-main event, former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida makes his Bellator debut against former middleweight title-holder Rafael Carvalho.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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