Bellator MMA announced on Friday the addition of six fighters to the female flyweight division, including former UFC title contender Valerie Letourneau.
The promotion plans to crown a champion by the end of 2017, as Letourneau, Na Liang, Juliana Velasquez, Sabriye Sengul, Kristi Lopez and Alejandra Lara join the likes of Keri Melendez and Ilima Macfarlane.
Below is a complete release from the promotion:
Bellator is pleased to announce the signings of Valérie Létourneau (8-6), Alejandra Lara (6-1), Sabriye Şengül (Debut), Kristi Lopez (2-0), Na Liang (6-0) and Juliana Velasquez (5-0) to multi-fight contracts that will see them compete in Bellator’s emerging 125-pound division. Additionally, Bellator will look to crown its next women’s flyweight world champion this year.
“2017 has been a big year for us in terms of bringing in marquee free agents that can have an immediate impact on their division,” said Bellator President Scott Coker. “This group of flyweight signings demonstrates that we’re committed to that throughout our roster, as we’re adding even more depth to an already-competitive weight class. We’re adding a proven title contender, along with a group of prospects from all around the globe, and we look forward to putting on great fights and displaying the talent this division has to offer.”
These news stars join a division that already includes talented fighters, such as Keri Taylor-Melendez (1-0), Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (6-0), Anastasia Yankova (5-0), Emily Ducote (5-2), Colleen Schneider (11-7) and Lena Ovchynnikova (12-4, 1 NC).
The Canadian-born Létourneau, a former UFC strawweight title challenger, carries an impressive track record of thrilling fights, highlighted by a world title contest against undefeated UFC champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Now, moving up to a more natural weight class, the 33-year-old American Top Team product will make her debut for Bellator in 2017. She will look to improve upon her eight victories as a professional, a tally that includes five finishes, with four coming by way of knockout.
Hailing from Medellin, Colombia, Alejandra Lara will look to make a statement in Bellator’s budding women’s flyweight division. The 22-year-old knockout artist has earned six victories in seven outings since making her professional debut in 2011. “Azul” has shown tenacity in her fights thus far, showcasing a pair of first round knockouts, as well as a first round armbar submission. Lara trains alongside UFC fighters Alexa Grasso and Irene Aldana at Team Lobo in Mexico.
Fighting out of Hollywood, Calif., Kristi Lopez will enter the Bellator fray as she prepares for her third professional bout. Prior to that, “Loba” also tallied three victories over a four-fight, two-year span on the amateur circuit.
Chinese submission specialist Na Liang will look to build on a 2017 campaign that already saw her finish an opponent in a mere 38 seconds. The first-round stoppage marked the fifth time in six appearances that Liang’s opposition failed to make it out of the opening round. After competing exclusively at bantamweight to begin her career, Liang decided to move down to the flyweight division, where she also saw success by collecting a trio of first round finishes.
With an impressive following in Turkey from her kickboxing career, Sabriye Şengül will now transition to MMA under the direction of Bellator. With a professional kickboxing record of 6-1, the 26-year-old prospect holds the potential to achieve the same success in multiple combat sport disciplines.
Undefeated at 30 years of age, Juliana Velasquez trains under the Nogueira brothers in Brazil, carrying one of the most famous names in MMA with her inside the Bellator cage. Additionally, Juliana trains alongside fellow Bellator flyweight Bruna Vargas. With five wins in five appearances, the Rio de Janeiro resident will look to become another Brazilian Bellator champion.