WWE added its latest former MMA star to its roster this week, signing Bellator's Valerie Loureda to a contract.
Loureda, who is the first Cuban-American woman to sign with WWE, announced she was leaving her MMA career behind in favor of the squared circle in an interview with Ariel Helwani.
“I’m really excited, and I’ve dedicated my whole life to martial arts, and everything has come to this moment," Loureda told Helwani. "And this is my opportunity to showcase my culture and entertain the world.
“I’m emotional because I’ve worked really hard in my whole life. I’ve had a very hard upbringing, and every day, I’ve always just believed in myself, and trained hard hoping to make it to the next step and just chasing a dream that I’ve had in my heart since I was a baby.”
Loureda will officially begin with WWE on July 18, according to TMZ, one day before her 24th birthday. She went 4-1 during her MMA career and last fought to a split-decision victory over Taylor Turner in November.
WWE has increasingly shifted its focus away from finding wrestlers on the independent scene in favor of younger athletes who they can mold in their style. The company recently launched an NIL campaign for college athletes, designed to get them into the door with WWE once their NCAA careers end.
Current WWE Superstars Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler came to the company after ending their MMA careers. While both of those women were well into their 30s by the time they decided to give pro wrestling a try, Loureda continues a company-wide youth movement at age 24.
"We would like that [age] number to come down, especially on the developmental standpoint," James Kimball, WWE's senior vice president for global talent strategy and development, told Adam Rittenberg of ESPN. "The second you enter our developmental program and then potentially end up on NXT TV and then onto Smackdown or Raw, you want that number to be 25, not 30 or 35."