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Fighter of the Month- Florina Petcu
Renzo Gracie Academy, NY


Florina Petcu of Renzo Gracie Academy, NY, came to Thai Boxing rather haphazardly. From her background in dance and acting, she wanted to try something new, motivating, and challenging. On a whim, she Googled “martial arts in New York” and discovered Muay Thai. She had no idea what it was, but it looked fun, “and I didn’t have to buy a gi—but then I spent a hundred dollars on equipment,” chuckles Petcu, recalling how quickly she was hooked on the sport. As for competitive fighting, it was something she never thought she would do; however, she loved Thai Boxing, was getting better at it, and she liked sparring. Always one to challenge herself and push further, Florina wanted to see if she could apply what she’d learned in the gym in the ring. Initially, she really only planned on having one fight “to see how it went,” but the moment she got out of the ring, she wanted more. Petcu makes an interesting parallel as to why she took that first fight: “Sparring and training are like rehearsing for a play. After all the rehearsal, there’s the actual show, and you have to see if all the rehearsing has gotten you somewhere.”

Florina trains six days a week and gets her game plan from her trainer, Joe Sampieri, with whom she has been working years. She has a great team and likes her teammates because “they’re a bunch of big guys who don’t go easy on me because I’m a small girl.” This helps her in the ring, not only physically and in terms of technique, but mentally as well. “Whatever I take in the ring from somebody my own size, I’ve had the same from my teammates who are all a lot bigger than I am.” Her confidence comes from preparation. Before she goes into the ring, Florina knows that she has done everything humanly possible to train for the fight. In addition, she knows that her trainer and teammates have done everything they possibly could have done to get her ready. Thus, she advises other fighters to be team players. “It’s a give-and-take sport. Between your own fights, step up to the plate and help your teammates prepare. You grew by them helping you; give back and help them grow too.” To new fighters, she says there must be a balance. “Be realistic—believe that you can, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. But at the same time, don’t believe that you deserve—you have to put in the time, make the sacrifice.”

Respect is important to Petcu. She says she respects anyone who has the guts to get into the ring, no matter how good or bad they are. Not only does it take guts to step into the ring, but it also takes many sacrifices and endless hours of training. A trip to Thailand inspired her awe—she saw a six-year-old girl training Muay Thai who was so composed and technical that she immediately won Florina’s respect. “She wasn’t a kid—she was a fighter.
Florina will fight on Justin Blair’s upcoming Friday Night Fights card. She is taking her fights step by step at the moment, as it is difficult to find opponents in her weight class (-110 pounds/-50 kilograms), but she would like a rematch with one of the only two fighters to beat her during her thirteen-fight career. And although Muay Thai is her true love, Petcu has tried some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Renzo Gracie Academy and is considering doing a tournament. Though she has little free time outside of work and training (when asked what she does for fun outside the gym, she replies “martial arts is my fun!), she would like to go back to school and finish her studies in acting, which she began in her native Romania. She is considering a master’s in dance and drama therapy. As of December 4th, Florina is the WKA Amateur U.S. Women’s Thai Boxing Bantamweight Champion at -50 kilograms—a title which, perhaps, Florina will have the opportunity to defend in the upcoming year.

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