An exclusive interview by A.C. Mann

I thought baseball was the sport that would lead me to a career as a professional athlete. I envisioned playing in the majors, playing second base for the Oakland A’s and basking in the glow of a ball player’s enviable life. The problem was, it was difficult to see or admit that the odds were not in my favor. Desire sometimes clouds one’s vision, allowing us to think that our talents are on par with the best. In the end, it was not the curve ball — the reason so many players say they did not go further — that opened my eyes to the hopelessness of my dream. Instead, it was not hitting the screwball that did me in. When I realized that there was no way I was going to figure it out, my MLB options started to disintegrate. Some might argue that not many pitchers throw the screwball, so why not stick with it a little while longer. I finally realized that there were too many unknowns out there that’ll trip me up and expose my weaknesses. High school was as far as I would go, and to be honest with myself, accepting it was fine with me.

So, how does a professional athlete, one who has competed for a major part of their lives, decide that the time has come to leave their sport behind? To focus on a future that does not involve athletic competition? The emotions, the drama, are surely at a level so heightened that some continue beyond their prime, hoping to stave off the inevitable. What about those athletes who leave the game on top, as a champion? What are their motivations, and what are their regrets?

Andreea 'The Storm' Vladoi (13-4-1), a tireless worker, and one of the LFC’s elite, recently retired as a champion after reaching the pinnacle of her sport. The former Olympian’s creativity in the cage was as much a testament to her innate abilities as it was to the mastery of her discipline: Wushu. Andreea is one of those fighters — win or lose — who refused to mail-in a performance and always brought her full arsenal. With her decision to retire, she denies the entire LFC Nation the joy of seeing her indomitable spirit in the cage ever again. Certain athletes retire too soon, leaving open the possibility of a return someday. Andreea is definitely in that camp.

‘The Storm’ has left many of us puzzled and searching for answers. The game is usually the one that decides when an athlete has to retire — a merciless arbiter that judges the human condition. It seems counter-intuitive when an athlete is the one making his or her own decision, while still in their prime. This is exactly what Andreea had done. Seeking clarity, and with the utmost respect for her privacy, I was granted an interview with her. As gracious as ever, Andreea kindly fills us in on her retirement and on her future plans.

A.C.:
First, congratulations on retiring as a champion.

AV:
Thank you very much, it feels great to retire as a Champ, which hey, I think I deserve it so ☺️

A.C.:
How does it feel to go out on your terms instead of having the sport dictate your future?

AV:
I’ve always been the kind of person that made my own terms in life in general and sports was one of it (besides when I was on the Olympic Team as a gymnast, there is no “your own terms”). But when you know your own worth and level, then it’s easy to do so.

A.C.:
You obviously worked hard and made the most of your title shot. What one thing or combination of things would you say prepared you most for your success?

AV:
That is for sure that I worked very hard to get where I am in life and it was that way in LFC as well. I was one of the best fighters in the league which I’m very proud about; it was expected for me to have that title shot at some point. When the chance came, well I took it, I usually take and go for it, for what I want. That belt was one thing that I wanted badly and I had it. You know, they say if you want something bad, go for it and you’ll have it.

A.C.:
Did you decide to retire before or after the championship fight?

AV:
I thought of it before as well because of my injuries, but I didn’t want to quit that fast without at least having a shot at the belt. So, I decided to wait and it was a great decision in doing so, because I became the Champ right after. After that, I had to retire not just because of so many injuries, but because of what I do as a job as well, it was a mix of the two.

A.C.:
Any regrets at this point?

AV:
I have no regrets and never had. I dictate my life in such a way, so I’ll never have to have regrets.

A.C.:
Do you miss your teammates?

AV:
Ugh, of course, I miss my teammates, I love and respect them all and I hope to see them soon at the next fight that LFC will have in Vegas. I’ll definitely be there cheering them on and applauding them.

A.C.:
What advice would you give someone with eyes on the belt or someone who is fighting for the belt?

AV:
Well as I said it above, if you want something bad enough, you’ll get it at some point, so never quit and work your ass off for it; that’s pretty much it. Also, train as much as you can and try to be better than the version of you yesterday.

A.C.:
Is there anything you want to say to the fans?

AV:
For my fans, I love them and I thank them for their continuous support. They are wonderful and it’s always nice to receive encouraging words, so thank you.

A.C.:
You must know that your energy and fighting spirit is deeply missed.

AV:
Aww thank you so much, I’m happy to know that my energy and fighting spirit is missed; it’s a nice thought to have. I miss everything that has to do with fighting as well but… oh well, I guess 30 full years of doing sports should be enough no?

A.C.:
Is there even a slight chance you may return, even if it is for one fight? It seems your rivalry with Jolene 'The Valkyrie' Hexx (20-6-1) is unresolved.

AV:
Hahahaha I wish I could return but unfortunately, I can’t, not even for one fight. My rivalry with Jolene will always be there, that’s how two great fighters will always be so…but we do have our beautiful friendship outside the cage. So I will always be thankful for that from now on as we can’t put it in the cage anymore, haha.

A.C.:
Finally, what does the future look like for Andreea Vladoi?

AV:
The future for Andreea Vladoi looks shiny and bright like always. I’m a very positive, optimistic, and energetic person, so if I put something in mind, I usually achieve it, so the future looks great and I look forward to seeing what new things it will bring for me.

You can keep in touch with Andreea on Instagram @skystormgym.

Thanks for reading,
A.C. Mann