By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
December 16 marked the 18-year anniversary of Raluca Dinescu stepping into a martial arts gym for the first time. This year, she celebrated that memory as an Amateur MMA world champion.
Dinescu, 32, clinched the senior women’s atomweight title in 2018 at the historic IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships in Manama, Bahrain, seizing a moment that was four years in the making after her 2015 debut.
For the last four years, Dinescu has represented the national team of the Romanian MMA Federation, under the banner of IMMAF’s renown international competition platform, now unified with the WMMAA. Dinescu’s first appearance came at the 2015 IMMAF European Open Championships.
“I had a period of 4-5 years that I didn’t do any kind of competition,” she revealed to IMMAF.org, “then in 2014 I started MMA.
“I started with karate, then I switched to boxing. I always wanted to do boxing but mum didn’t let me,” she joked.
It was at the 2015 European Open where Dinescu swiftly established herself as an international talent, competing in the 115lb strawweight division and earning the silver medal.
Romania’s perennial top contender would continue to frequent the IMMAF podium and added to her accolades in 2016 with bronze at the World Championships in Las Vegas, taking place as a staple of the UFC’s International Fight Week. However, the gold medal continued to remain elusive while IMMAF legend Alexandra Toncheva held a firm and undefeated grip on the division, besting Dinescu for a second time in a European Open final in 2016 (pictured below).
Dinescu first met her Bulgarian rival in what was a pivotal moment in the history of the women’s strawweight division. Both competitors featured as newcomers to the IMMAF platform, each battling their way to the 2015 European Open final. The audience was served with a clash of proven styles: Dinescu’s calculated cage grinding control versus the in-your-face energy and unrelenting cardio of Toncheva.
After an intense bout that saw the duo kick things off by going toe-to-toe in the center of the cage, it was Toncheva who emerged victorious via a unanimous decision and subsequently assumed dominance over the division for the remainder of her amateur tenure.
Dinescu continued the chase, but incoming talent such as Sweden’s Nina Back, who edged a competitive unanimous decision win over Dinescu at the 2018 European Open (pictured above), blocked the way still as the division further evolved through 2017 and 2018.
However, evolution was also taking place elsewhere as IMMAF introduced further opportunity for female talent, and the 105lb atomweight division was established in March of this year. The added weight class proved to be a perfect alternative for Dinescu, who had frequently weighed in under the 115lb limit at her virtual walking weight.
“First of all, I want to point out how happy I am,” Dinescu expressed, “with the atomweight class being added.
“I always felt I was a bit too small for strawweight and, although I cut some kilos, I felt more confident and comfortable fighting at atomweight. When I was a strawweight, I was almost always 2kg under weight.”
Dinescu entered the atomweight division with a new confidence having spent the past years battling to execute her now trademark style against larger opposition.
“I don’t fight to make a show or to look cool, I fight to win,” she commented, discussing her calculated approach to preservation across a tournament campaign: close the distance with strikes before clinching up to grind out the rounds against the fence.
“It keeps you out of danger, no matter if you’re fighting a striker or a grappler, and I think that MMA is about this – find the path of least resistance and win the fight. I love MMA because you can use the entire body, even the head, for controlling an opponent’s position.”
At the 2018 World Championships, Dinescu secured successive unanimous decision triumphs over all comers, including India’s Akshata Subhash, Russian semi-finalist Svetlana Kotova, and Ukraine’s striking specialist Oksana Pashkova in the gold medal decider (pictured above). Pashkova had advanced to the finals with victories including a split-decision nod over reigning European Open champion, Jenna Horto of Finland.
“My coach [George Stanciu] made me feel even more confident. He told me I can successfully take any fight in any dimension: wrestling, striking or BJJ. Although I had to work a bit harder to adapt for each opponent, I managed to face successfully the grappling skills of the Indian, the Russian’s judo and the Ukrainian’s Muay Thai.”
The Unified World Championships were the biggest and most highly contested to date under the now combined IMMAF and WMMAA banners. Dinescu entered the 2018 championships having committed more time to the amateur platform than almost every other athlete in attendance, second only to Germany’s European and World champion, Julia Dorny.
“I was overwhelmed by the emotions the moment my hand was raised, but at the same time I felt it was a well deserved win after the hard work and dedication I put in the preparation.”
Since 2015 Dinescu has pioneered women’s MMA under IMMAF as a driven sportswoman showcasing commitment to the worldwide movement. Perseverance and awareness for developing and implementing a skillset has seen the Romanian standout navigate all hurdles to achieve a world championships gold medal
Although, she reveals, it is not quite enough. New hurdles are on the horizon and Dinescu’s attentions have since turned to defending the crown against the challengers of 2019. Evidently, she is a consummate athlete, competitor and champion.
“To be honest, together with my coach George Stanciu, I’m already preparing a better fighting strategy for defending the title. We all know that a one time champ can be just a happening, and a confirmation is needed.”