Every person has a story. Some stories, though, are deeper than others and need to be told, like that of mixed martial artist Valeriu Mircea.
Mircea has born in 1993 in Satul Topala, a 2000-person rural village in Moldova, situated in the district of Cimișlia. His family was not wealthy, to put it mildly. His mother, though, did everything she could to give her sons what they needed.
“I grow up in poverty, I didn’t have what other kids of my age had,” Mircea told BJPENN.com. “My mother worked twelve hours per day, working other people’s fields under the sun just to bring up a piece of bread, a bucket of flour, maybe three litres of oil. When we were lucky she could get 200 Lei (about 11 USD today).”
Even if though had to face such struggles, Mircea recalls he was a happy kid who went to school and played sports.
“We couldn’t afford notebooks so I had to ask for some pages from my schoolmates’ notebooks, otherwise I couldn’t follow the lessons and they would have sent me home,” the Moldovan fighter said. “I enjoyed studying, but teachers helped just the wealthy kids since their parents gave them money. Although I finished the school and with good results too.”
Just like every European kid of his age, Valeriu loved to play football, but his family couldn’t even buy him a pair of shoes, so he had to play barefoot with the other kids making fun of him and most of the time even mocking and bullying him.
“It was hard for me growing up with bullies, but I was a positive boy, and didn’t need much to be happy,” he said. “I loved to think that one day my life would have changed.”
Years went by for the little Valeriu, and one day his mother told him he would have soon had a brother. In 2003, Valeriu’s younger brother Maxim was born.
Their mother and father continued to take on all the work they could find in order to bring some money home, until 2006 when Mrs. Mircea made the decision to move to Italy, looking for a better life for her children.
“It wasn’t easy for my mom to leave me and my brother with our aunt and grandmother, but she had to do so, due to the situation of poverty we had here,” Mircea recalls. “She sent us the first money after three months. It was €400 euros, 5000 lei. A lot of money for a small rural village in Moldova, we could eat for two months. She also sent us €200 more, so me and my brother could go to the city to buy some clothes. I cried for joy. Thanks to that woman, Ana Mircea, our lives changed.”
In 2009, Valeriu and Maxim flew to Italy to live with their mom. Here, in a small town near Venice, the Mircea family started a new chapter.
Valeriu then started going to a high school in Italy in the morning and to another school in the afternoon so he could learn Italian. After two months, he could speak Italian fluently. But that wasn’t enough for him. So, his mother, an Aikido practitioner, decided to introduce the young fighter to martial arts and brought him with her to Aikido class.
“I loved my routine back then. School, homework, martial arts. Wash, rinse, repeat. I didn’t ask for anything else. Our life was perfect,” Mircea said. “Until I grew up. Turning 17 I realized my mother was actually struggling to pay all the bills on her own, paying the school for two kids. I decided then to quit school and start working. She didn’t want me to, but I already made my decision.”
In the summer of 2011, he began working for a hotel as a handyman for €800 per month. For 9 hours per day, he washed dishes, chopped wood, mowed lawns, painted, and more.
“It wasn’t tough for me, I grew up in tougher situations,” Mircea recounted. “Also, I was glad to help my mother. For the very first time, I felt like a man. Once the summer was over, I came back home and really started focusing on sports and martial arts. It began with Judo, the sport that made me the man I’m today.”
“During the first lessons, the older guys cleaned the mat with me, but my ambition didn’t make it happened for a long time. I worked hard, learned fast and in just five months I already gave troubles to black belts. I was a savage. After one year I won the Regional Championship and the year later I won the National Championship in the 73 kg weight class. I was just an orange belt back then, but no one knew. That day in 2012 I realized that I could have done everything.”
In 2014, the Italian-Moldovan martial artist made his professional MMA debut when he faced Italian veteran Luca Puggioni. Mircea won the fight in just over three minutes, submitting Puggioni with a triangle choke.
Since then he racked up 32 bouts in just 6 years. Unfortunately, a horrible fate also struck Valeriu Mircea and his family.
Last summer, in July, Mircea’s 17-year-old brother, Maxim, was found dead in a lake in Moldova.
“My brother was a smart, handsome kid,” Mircea said. “My mom used to say he would have become a lawyer. It’s been a shock. He died in Moldova, where our journey started.
“It was February when he asked me to come with me to Moldova to watch my match at Eagles FC,” Mircea continued. “I didn’t want to, because I was afraid of some issues with coming back to Italy, but he insisted so much that eventually, I accepted. After my fight, he asked to stay at my aunt’s for a while and I decided it was ok, so he could relax a bit, living in the countryside. We stayed in touch, we phoned a lot, he told me he was good, that he had a lot of girlfriends and stuff like that. After three weeks, though, Italian borders were closed due to the COVID pandemic and he couldn’t come home in time. I was worried, I begged him to stay away from troubles. As an older brother, I felt that something was wrong. He used to be carried away by other people, he didn’t have a strong personality and that worried me.
“After the first lockdown was over, he was ready to come back to Italy, but on July 7 he was found drowned in Lake. Two days after he had the flight booked to come back. I don’t know what happened, I’ll probably never have an answer and it’s hard. I’m trying to go on, but I miss him so much. He’s gone too young.”
With such burdens on his shoulders “The Solitary Wolf” is now ready to make his anticipated BRAVE Combat Federation debut, after his previously booked fight against Abdysalam Uulu Kubanychiev was canceled due to the postponement of the event in November, 2020.
Even if he’s only 27, the former Eagles Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder can already boast an impressive record of 25 victories, 6 losses and 1 draw, including a brief two-fight Bellator stint that ended with one win and one loss.
“Records don’t mean anything to me,” Mircea declared. “I like to fight, I never refused a fight with the fear of ruining my record. I fought at featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, even at 175 pounds. If I lose a fight, it’s because I made a mistake and I have to work harder to fix it. That’s it.”
He will now lock horns against another BRAVE CF debutant, the 31-year-old Russian veteran Abdulmutalip Gairbekov (15-2-1 MMA) and the winner will fight for the BRAVE featherweight gold next.
“I’m glad I’m finally making my BRAVE debut against this very strong Dagestan kid,” Mircea said. “I love this kind of challenge. My coach, my team and I are taking care of every detail in order to win this fight. If I win this, my career will surely change for the best. But we will see. I have to beat him first. I use to not look to the future. Our goal is to get the long-awaited UFC contract, obviously, but as for now, I’m more than happy. My primary goal is the BRAVE belt. Who knows what will happen next.”This article appeared first on BJPENN.COM