This post was most recently updated on January 20th, 2023
Shtegu Vrajolli is an inspiring and successful athlete who excels in both sports and academics. With an impressive life story marked by his parents’ flight from their homeland of Kosovo and harassment due to his immigrant background, he has proven to be a true inspiration to many. After a successful youth career in soccer, he discovered his passion for MMA and has made a name for himself in the sport through hard work and determination. He has also proven himself in the academic world by successfully completing his master’s degree in architecture. Now he is returning to the MMA ring with the goal of fighting his way back to the top. Vrajolli’s story proves that with hard work and determination anything is possible and he is a true role model for many.
How did you get into doing MMA and how did you decide to make MMA your passion?
I played soccer for 10 years before that and even made it to the 2nd national league. My brother, who is two years older, was already wrestling a bit and at some point he discovered a small martial arts school in Tuttlingen where a trainer named “Damion Thomas” was giving MMA classes. My brother was completely fascinated and tried to convince me to come to the training. I said at the beginning that this does not fit to me and sounds too brutal. Since he insisted I gave in and came along. Somehow I got hooked and knew quickly that I had found something that would change my life. And so it was.
What experiences did you have during your time as a soccer player and how did they influence you as an MMA fighter?
Soccer is and always will be a beautiful sport, I and many relatives were convinced that I would become a professional player. It was shocking for everyone that I suddenly stopped and then started a completely different sport at the age of 16. That always spurred me on and motivated me to prove to the people that I made the right decision. I think through the years of training I have built up good endurance and basic muscles. It would have been better if I had started wrestling bears like Khabib Nurmagomedov when I was 3 years old, but I think it was still of great benefit for my MMA career.
Were there any difficulties or doubts regarding this sport in the beginning?
The doubts came very late, for example after my first defeat, that is about 6 years after my professional debut. Before that, my motivation was tireless and I had the impression that I could conquer the world with my talent and ambition.
What inspired you to study architecture and how did you manage to balance these two disciplines?
Honestly, I didn’t target architecture specifically. My focus was always on MMA. I applied in the cities where the best gyms in Germany are located. In Stuttgart was the highly notorious Stallion-Gym and in this city I was accepted for architecture as well as for physical education and biology. I thought that I had enough to do with sports and that such a complex mix of science and art would be the perfect balance. I also strongly believe in fate and predestination. So I decided to study architecture. And yes, my parents fled the war to give us children a good education and a safe life. I think that was the least I owed them. It is very important to me that my parents are happy.
It’s impressive to hear how you discovered your passion for MMA and how you managed to pursue your dream of a career in competitive sports while studying architecture. It’s also encouraging to see how you fought through setbacks and how you respected and were grateful to your parents and their decisions to flee to Germany. What are your goals now for your future in MMA and architecture?
A lot happened during my studies. I found a new passion in architecture. There have been many ups but unfortunately even more downs and that has been especially noticeable in my athletic career. I had to accept a total of three defeats because I didn’t want to realize that it was too difficult to combine both. Before my studies I was able to win all my fights – all of them prematurely.
I think it’s realistic for me to fight my way back to the top in Germany this year. After that, let’s see what’s written for me. Now that my studies are over, I finally have time to dedicate myself fully to the sport again. And for that I will also go to other countries to prepare myself better. I have made a lot of good contacts in my career and I think that I will enjoy a good preparation especially in the AllstarsGym in Stockholm. The best fighters in the world train there, Khamzat Chimaev, Ilir Latifi and Alexander Gustafsson to name a few and in my opinion it is the best MMA gym in the world. I also have to keep a promise I gave to someone regarding my goals. Keeping my word is a first priority.
And of course I’m aware that I can’t do that forever and at some point my body won’t be able to take it anymore. Then, of course, I will turn to my newfound passion, the art of building. Until then, however, I only plan to keep myself fit in this area by working a part-time job.
What experiences did you have during your time at Stallion Gym and how did it affect you as a fighter?
I always had a weakness in boxing until I came to StallionGym. My boxing coach and training partners have taken my boxing skills to another level, which I have been able to clearly demonstrate in my recent fights. I have also made some good friends for myself and most importantly, many other like-minded people who are chasing the same dreams.
What is the importance of the city of Stuttgart in your career and life?
Stuttgart has also contributed a lot, of course. You meet all kinds of people and make many important contacts. In general, a big city offers more opportunities to make one’s life easier and more flexible.
What personal challenges have you overcome during your career in MMA and your studies in architecture?
Every fight was a challenge and I think the most outstanding thing about my career is that I was able to finish all the fights I won prematurely and didn’t need the usual 3 x 5 minutes. So I have a finishing rate of 100%. Many of my fights were on short notice. For example, for my participation in ACB (now ACA), one of the leading MMA leagues in the world, I had only ten days of preparation time in which I had to lose ten kilograms of body weight to reach the desired weight class. In addition, I was still ailing from a flu infection and of course my university studies also limited my preparation.
Another challenge I was able to master is that after four years off and during my master thesis I was able to win my comeback against the experienced Serbian “Dragan Pesic” after only 33 seconds via TKO.
Despite high stress due to my studies, I have always held on to dare the necessary steps to progress in combat sports.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in MMA and/or architecture?
In both cases, among many aspects, persistence is probably the most crucial. That’s why you should always continue and rather take tiny steps forward instead of stopping. This became very clear to me during my time at university. If a few scribbled lines on a sketchbook later turn into a building complex that has to meet all kinds of requirements, then anything is possible in life if you keep at it. One day it will be done, you just need a vision and a clear goal in mind. But the thing that will ultimately move you forward the most is not to stop.
What role does your Kosovar heritage play in your life and how has it influenced your choices?
My Kosovar or Albanian heritage has always played a big role in my life. The Albanian people are very fierce and full of pride and ambition. It is also known for its strong bonds between people. I get most of my support from the Albanian community and I like to give it back. Albanians are connected worldwide and I think that is a big advantage over other cultures. You can see that everywhere now, not only in the music scene. But also the fact that I grew up as a migrant in Germany has shaped me positively. It has helped me to go my own way and not to pay so much attention to what others think of me.
What is the importance of your family in your life and how do they support you in your career?
Family is everything to me. Without them, I would have nothing. But especially my older brother plays a very important role in my martial arts career. He showed me this world and with him I feel that my success is even more important to him than his own. When he is present at my fights, it makes a big difference to me mentally. I then think to myself in the cage “What can happen to me? My big brother has my back!”
It sounds like discovering MMA and having your brother supporting you was a very positive turn in your life and helped you grow both physically and mentally. What has it taught you and what challenges have you overcome during your career in MMA?
I learned a lot of things. For example, how adaptable and resilient the human body is. It’s also made me a lot more confident, of course, considering that I’ve become a human weapon. But I’ve also gained a lot of patience and discipline. And in general, it’s a good feeling to know that you can protect your fellow human beings in certain situations. There have always been difficulties, of course. These range from physical and psychological stress from all the training to self-doubt after bitter defeats. The most difficult thing is to keep going and to pick yourself up after a hard setback and keep going.
An interesting life, Shtegu, full of challenges and successes. It is impressive to hear how you have become so successful in your sports and studies despite the difficulties you and your family have gone through in the past. Your decision to study architecture to balance your sports career is very wise and shows that you are a very skillful time manager. It seems that you have your goals clearly in mind and are willing to work hard to achieve them. We wish you all the best for your future and look forward to hearing about your successes in the MMA scene.
Thank you very much ! I also wish you all the best for your future.