Exclusive Interview: Andrei “Mr. KO” Stoica
From Poverty to Stardom: Mr. KO Tells His Fairy Tale Story
If you’re a hardcore Kickboxing fan, you have probably known Stoica for years due to him terrorizing the Superkombat Super Cruiserweight division for several years.
But if you are a new fan to the sport, you probably know Mr. KO from the ONE Championship events, where Stoica is a Light Heavyweight title contender.
No matter what: Stoica is a force to be reckoned with on the elite, global Kickboxing stage, and FIGHT SPORTS reached out to Stoica and managed to secure an exclusive interview for it’s readers.
The Romanian fighter boasts an incredible record of 54 wins, 30 by way of knock out, one No Contest and only 13 losses.
FIGHT SPORTS: Al right Andrei, lets get things started. Could you try to introduce yourself to the readers, and let them get to know you?
Stoica: Alright, sure.
Well, first of all, I am a fighter and I can say that Kickboxing changed my life and gave me a life purpose. I always dreamed of becoming a champion, and I did just that. I dreamed of having my own house, and this dream also came true – I built one myself. I dreamed of having a beautiful family, and now I am blessed with a beautiful family.
Kickboxing prepared me for all these things and made me the man I am today. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me, I knew I had to be disciplined, and I knew I had to not disappoint the people around me. I knew I had to make sacrifices for this to work and so I did.
You could say fighting runs in the family. My father did a bit of boxing. It wasn’t anything big, but it was enough to light that spark into me and my brother, and plant that dream deep inside of us. Growing up with action movies and later K-1 events, I knew I wanted to become a fighter, and I wanted my brother to follow in my footsteps, so we could both become champions and make our family proud. I guess the dream eventually came true.
Now I have a beautiful family: a wife and three children. I have two boys and a baby girl, which I always wanted. We built our house close to Bucharest recently. I feel fulfilled in this aspect.
Besides taking care of my kids, of their education and upbringing, I also own a Kickboxing gym, here in Bucharest – the Stoica Brothers Fight Academy, which is like a second home to me and to a lot of talented people that come and train here. We share the same passion for the sport. Our goal is to raise the next generation of fighters here, and to fulfill the dreams of those, who have what it takes to become a champion.
I also do some volunteering work. I recently became an ambassador to a movement called “Public hospitals from private money”, where we raise money to restore and recondition hospital sections, that really need support and attention. I like helping out when I can and inspiring people to do the same.
FIGHT SPORTS: WOW: that is awesome and very inspiring.
You used to fight for all the big promotions like Glory Kickboxing, Legend, K-1 and Superkombat? Some might say you’ve been blessed with opportunities. Has it been easy getting fights?
Stoica: Yes, you could say I’ve been blessed to fight in the world’s top fighting promotions, traveling all around the world. It wasn’t hard getting fights, since most promotions wanted me to fight for them. Although I had an aggressive fighting style, I kept it clean and technical, and I guess my fights were considered entertaining.
Fans like that I used to finish my opponents before the bell, hence giving me the nickname “Mister KO”. It also helped that I am pretty charismatic and likable, and some promoters even said I was also appealing to the female audience, ha ha, raising their numbers… but who knows if that was true, ha ha.
I was pleased with Superkombat, because it was my launching ramp career wise, and it was on Superkombat I caught the attention of the public, and the other organizations worldwide. It was the promotion where I showed everybody what I’m made of – where I proved my worth and my potential.
I was very happy that I was able to fight in K-1 once. But it makes me sad that the K-1 World Grand Prix, the events that paved the way for fight sports today, were cancelled. I remember growing up with K-1, watching those legendary tournaments every year, dreaming to one day step onto that stage and be one of the final 8 in Tokyo Dome. Too bad they never bounced back and reached its former heights again.
I am sorry I didn’t have a better start in Glory Kickboxing. At that time it was something very big, and I felt pretty overwhelmed in my first fight for Glory Kickboxing. But I am even more sad, that they never gave me another shot to prove that my first fight was really an accident.
I am unhappy that they didn’t hold up on their end of the deal. They never contacted me afterwards, releasing me without a word, even though we had a contractual agreement. I thought they were more professional than that, but I guess I was wrong.
Now I am very happy with ONE Championship. The way they respect their word and their fighters. They have really grown over the last couple of years, and I’m glad it became one of the best promotions in the world – second only to the UFC. Top organization, high quality fights, treating you like a champion all the way before the fight, regardless if you fight on the under card or the main event.
FIGHT SPORTS: Yeah I’ve heard a lot of great things about ONE Championship.
A lot of the fighters on the ONE roster fights in more than one discipline. What kind of disciplines do you practice these days?
Stoica: You can say I am blessed once again, having my own gym. Besides Kickboxing, at Stoica Brothers Fight Academy we also have some pretty good trainers teaching Karate, boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and MMA. We have a team of talented and passionate people among us, teaching, training and competing in a lot of fight disciplines.
And although Kickboxing is my first love, I also enjoy practicing BJJ. It makes me think clearer, I feel my entire body waking up, and I feel stronger. It also improves my physical condition. Practicing both disciplines, I feel it will give me a better edge and up my game for the long run. I am also lucky to have one of the best BJJ teachers in Romania, Petre Gîtlan, teaching at our gym.
This year, I started doing CrossFit with my new strength and conditioning coach, Silviu Tănase. There’s a little series on my YouTube channel that people can check out. It’s called “Drumul spre Victorie (The Road to Victory)” which displays the preparations I went through for my fight with Giannis Stoforidis.
FIGHT SPORTS: Yeah I know exactly what you mean: I used to do BJJ for a couple of years too.
How has your friends and family reacted to your chosen path in life, and are you a bit of a celebrity in your own country?
Stoica: My friends and family are always beside me. I was blessed with a wonderful family and great friends who chose to support me, even before I got famous. Sure, some friends come and go, but I mostly try to surround myself with people who deserve to be in my life – people who stand by me, support me and lift me up.
I’m just a guy loving the things I do and I don’t consider myself a celebrity. But most people in my country know who I am and what I do because of the sport I practice. They know I am a champion and I get treated with respect. My Facebook page has almost 370 thousand followers, making me the most followed fighter in Romania, so I guess you could say that I am a bit popular.
Wearing your national flag on your shoulders, taking it on the highest peaks comes with great pride, but also great responsibility. I am proud of being the only Romanian that fought in all of the world’s top promotions: K-1, Glory Kickboxing, ONE Championship, Superkombat, and the only Romanian, besides my brother, who fights in ONE Championship. I guess all I need now is a fight in the UFC, ha ha.
Stoica vs. the legendary Ondřej “Spejbl” Hutník from Hanuman Gym, Prague, Czech Republic
FIGHT SPORTS: Ha ha ha, naaah Andrei: we need more Kickboxing fights with you. No UFC for you yet Champ, ha ha.
So being at the top of the food chain in the Kickboxing world, what does a regular week for you look like?
Stoica: A regular week for me is dividing my time between training and spending time with my family and friends.
Lots of training: Kickboxing techniques, sparring, BJJ, strength and conditioning. Most of it is done at Stoica Brothers Fight Academy.
Our gym houses a lot of champions, young and old, like my brother, Bogdan Stoica, a Romanian Kickboxing icon and probably the most spectacular fighter our country has to offer. We have quite a few champions training with us, and everybody share their experiences through having their own classes, where they instruct. Like Mădălin Mogoș, Serghei Zanosiev, Robert Hodea, and Alex Irimia, a Kempo world champion and many more.
As I said before, I am also practicing BJJ with Petre Gîtlan, who has more than 10 years of experience. He has a huge a talent for explaining the technique and the game, which I have rarely seen in others. I also have to mention our great Karate instructor, Cristi Mihalache,who is a black belt with more than 20 years of experience. He is an 8-time European champion and probably the best in our country. He won gold at the Karate World Championships in Italy two weeks ago.
But most of all I love training with my brother. We started this thing together, so it’s normal that we grow and evolve together. Brothers that train together, stay together.
FIGHT SPORTS: Wow: it seriously sounds like you guys have the ultimate gym to prepare for the elite stage. That’s just awesome.
Do you currently have any particular goals in mind, when you get up in the morning and have to go through the grind all over again?
Stoica: A lot of my dreams are already fulfilled, but I still have some left. Having a goal keeps me motivated and gives me a reason to fight, not only literally. Currently, I want to become the champion of ONE Championship and who knows, maybe in the future, when I have nothing else to prove, I’ll make the transition to MMA.
In my youth, I was a multiple national champion and European champion in Wushu. Seeing my current attraction to BJJ, I wouldn’t rule it out.
I would also love to expand the Stoica Brothers Fight Academy to a larger audience, to become a hub for even more fighting styles, also fitted with fitness equipment, so our fighters can train and evolve under the same roof.
Andrei Stoica vs. Rodney Glunder
FIGHT SPORTS: Sounds fantastic Andrei.
Now since you’ve been at it for so long, and have kind of been around the block a few times, you must have a lot of crazy, funny, joyful stories to tell.
What is the biggest thing you’ve experienced in combat sports so far?
Stoica: I would say that I’ve had a lot of achievements. For starters, building a life and a future from scratch. I came from a poor family, and to pay my monthly gym subscription, me and Bogdan pitched in with our allowances – my mom and my grandfather also helped just so we could practice the sport we loved, and enable us to follow our dreams. I worked and trained hard, because becoming a national champion meant I could train without paying the monthly fee. That was probably my first great achievement as a child.
While growing up, I set higher goals and started achieving them, like building my own house, having the family I always dreamed of, becoming a World Champion, having the Gym I always envisioned – a place to share my experience with the next generation of champions.
I also had the honor and pleasure of training with some legendary K-1 fighters like Ray Sefo, Mighty Mo, Melvin Manhoef, and I also trained with some great MMA legends like Rashad Evans, Alexander Gustafsson, Kamaru Usman, Thiago Silva and more.
I fought all over the world in my career, but the place I wanted to fight the most was Asia, the birthplace of martial arts – the place that inspired movies and gave kids like me something to dream of. Fighting in ONE Championship is another dream come true. But I’m sure there is still time for other great achievements.
Andrei Stoica vs. Moises Baute
FIGHT SPORTS: You’ve really made it. I like that you keep mentioning that family is important: I totally agree.
Let’s talk about the mental side of things: how do you actually feel, when you win a fight, and what goes through your mind, when you lose?
Stoica: Winning a fight at this level, after two months of training, makes you feel extraordinary – it makes you feel that after the work you put in, the daily pains, the fatigue, the sacrifices… it was all worth it. It’s a moment of joy and happiness, but also pride you rarely experience – like the birth of your child.
During the fight emotions run deep, and the pressure is high because everyone you know has expectations of you, and you don’t want to disappoint your family, your children, your friends and your fans. The sport we practice is also one where injuries happen a lot, so you hope you get out unscathed, otherwise your loved ones would be affected and worried about your well being.
People watch you perform for a few minutes in the ring, not knowing anything about the many hours of preparation prior to those 9 minutes, or all the things that go through your head, the pain you feel during the fight, which can affect your performance. I’ve fought so many times with a popped shoulder, a broken rib or an injured leg. People don’t see that.
When you lose, it’s really bad…you feel the world is over. I don’t want anyone to feel as I feel after a loss. You try not to think what people will say, how loved ones feel, how fans react, how haters react, or you will reach a very bad place. But harsh times makes me stronger, and thanks to the support of the people around me, I am able to move on and become even more motivated.
I’m 35 years old, but I sill have the fire burning inside of me – the drive and the motivation to fight and to win, and to overcome any obstacles.
FIGHT SPORTS: Yeah it’s a tough sport.
Mr. Stoica it has been an honor. Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of FIGHT SPORTS, the fans around the world and maybe to your future opponents?
Stoica: Yes: I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my family and friends for supporting me all this time, my staff and the people around me who work tirelessly to lessen my burden. The people who invest in me, my sponsors Golden Provider Distribution and Izvorul Moieciu, Team Stoica, the Stoica Brothers Fight Academy and Stoica’s Army.
And last but not least, my real supporters: those who’ve been beside me regardless of the situation, who encouraged me, who motivated me to give my best and helped me become the fighter I am today. Thank you my friends.
Also, a big shout-out to the FIGHT SPORTS readers: thanks for having the patience to read my interview and see you on social media.