Popa entered her first local competition in 2000, a regional cup in which she placed second. Later that same year, she placed third in her division at the National Championships. In 2003, upon reaching a weight of 125 pounds (57 kg) she began competing in the heavyweight bracket, representing her country until 2005. In 2006, she relocated to Switzerland, close to Zurich, and has competed for her adopted country as an amateur. She received her IFBB pro card in 2008 after winning the overall and heavyweight at the 2008 IFBB Worlds Santa Susanna. As a pro athlete, she represents her native country, Romania.