Team Romania: The Last Legion

Team Romania: The Last Legion

Wednesday, Jul 12 2017

The name ‘Romania’ reflects the land’s history and the close ties it had with the empire of Ancient Rome. The region was known to the Romans as Dacia before a campaign of conquest saw it become part of the Empire shortly after 100 AD.

Following that conquest, the locals became Roman citizens and intermingled with the Roman legions and their cohorts who were stationed there to manage and govern the province. Over time a Roman identity gradually took hold, and soon the people of the surrounding lands referred to their neighbors as ‘Romanians’ - literally ‘People of Rome’.

Two centuries later, Rome was forced to pull out of Romania as waves of invasion came from the Goth, Hun and Bulgar tribes. By 500AD the collapse of the Roman Empire was complete, swept away by barbarian hordes.

But in Romania, the flames of war were unable to burn away the local identity. They clung fiercely to their Roman traditions and to this day, more than 1,500 years later, the closest relative of the national language is Italian. Much of the population draws descent from the Roman legionnaires who garrisoned the country.

Now, in the 21st century, the descendants of those legionnaires are going to war once more. The GLORY World Series is the battleground. Sword and shield have been traded for gloves and shins but the ethic remains the same: forward march, no retreat, no surrender.

If the Romanian fighters on the GLORY roster are legionnaires then Daniel Ghita (50-10, 39 KO’s) is their centurion. The #1 ranked heavyweight is a battle-tested veteran in his physical prime. Ghita combines power with experience and in 2014, he is campaigning for the heavyweight title.

That prize has been on his mind for a long time. While he currently holds the #1 ranking spot, Ghita badly wants his supremacy to be more than a matter of points. He wants to crush his opposition and send a message.

He came very close to conquering the heavyweight division in the GLORY 4 TOKYO 16-man tournament, losing to Semmy Schilt (43-6-1, 20 KO’s) in the final when the referee made a somewhat controversial call to end the fight after Ghita was dropped with a head kick.

At GLORY 11 CHICAGO he made it to a tournament final again, facing the young contender Rico Verhoeven (43-9, 10 KO’s) in what was a Fight of the Year contender. Ghita lost a close judges’ decision, one he felt should have gone his way.

Those battles were lost, but the war goes on. Setbacks don’t make a soldier quit, they only make him adjust his tactics. Soon Ghita will march again and his eyes are on the heavyweight title and anybody who wants to stand in his way.

Verhoeven is one, the winner of GLORY 16’s Heavyweight Contender tournament will be another and we met yet see a rematch with Schilt, who is on the fence when it comes to retirement.

Marching alongside Ghita are the Stoica brothers Andrei (32-6, 21 KO’s) and Bogdan (38-5, 29 KO’s). The two are based in Bucharest, capital of Romania and the sixth-largest city in the European Union. They represent Respect Gym and have been the top fighters in their weight class on the domestic circuit for the last few years.

Light-heavyweight Andrei is the elder brother. Earlier this year he spent time in Sweden at the personal invitation of Alexander Gustafsson, the UFC’s top contender at 205lbs.

Gustafsson asked Stoica to help him prepare for his fight with British striker Jimi Manuwa in March, and went on to win that fight by KO. Afterwards he said that sparring with Stoica had been “like fighting a bear”.

Stoica himself made his GWS debut at the recent GLORY 15 ISTANBUL event. He made it in the hardest possible way, facing former #1 Danyo Ilunga (55-5, 43 KO’s) in the evening’s tournament reserve match.

Ilunga has been burning with fury since being deposed from the #1 spot by the arrival of Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki in the division and unfortunately for Stoica, Istanbul was where that got released.

The two had spirited exchanges in the first round before Ilunga landed a huge right hand, which took Stoica out. Andrei will regroup and return; in the meantime, he is helping his brother Bogdan prepare for his own GLORY debut.

“There are no easy fights in GLORY,” is a refrain you will hear from the organization spokesmen repeatedly and Bogdan’s debut is proof of that. He is going in at the deep end via a slot in the eight-man LAST MAN STANDING tournament taking place in Los Angeles on June 21.

Bogdan, infamous for finishing opponents with flying kicks and flying knees in a manner reminiscent of the great Remy Bonjasky, will line up alongside seven other world-class middleweights. Among them are Artem Levin, ranked #1, USA man Joe ‘Stitch ‘Em Up’ Schilling and the hard-hitting Melvin Manhoef.

The final member of GLORY’s Romanian quartet is Benjamin Adegbuyi (16-2, 12 KO’s). He has about an interesting heritage as it is possible to have: his mother was Romanian, his father Nigerian, and he was raised in Transylvania, home of the Count Dracula legend and the infamous Vlad the Impaler.

Adegbuyi fights in the heavyweight division and debuted in fine style with a head-kick KO victory at GLORY 14 ZAGREB last month.

He displayed confidence and technique while securing the win and on Saturday May 3 he will face the toughest challenge of his career when he meets three-fight GLORY veteran Daniel Sam (25-9, 13 KO’s) at GLORY SUPERFIGHT SERIES 16 in Denver, Colorado.

GLORY 16 DENVER airs live in the USA on SPIKE TV and features a four-man Heavyweight Contender Tournament plus the crowning of a World Welterweight Champion as Karapet Karapetyan (43-9-2, 4 KO’s) and Marc De Bonte (86-11-1, 28 KO’s) square off for the title.