Yoel Romero might be every promoter’s biggest nightmare and simultaneously the subject of their wettest dreams. The 40-year-old athletic specimen from Cuba delivers memorable moments at every event he is a part of, be it with barely comprehensible statements about Jesus, being clued to stools or dance routines at public training sessions. Romero is every bit as scary as he is meme-worthy.
On paper, the former Olympic wrestler ran roughshod over most of his UFC middleweight competition over the past few years, while in reality at least his victories over Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza were accompanied by controversy. Nevertheless, he gathered an impressive number of Ws and was granted a title shot back in July against Robert Whittaker, who kept Romero, famously struggling with his cardio, at bay for five rounds.
Whittaker was recently forced out of his title defense against Luke Rockhold due to a severe illness. Back in came the Cuban oddball to save the main event of an otherwise weak UFC 221 pay-per-view in Perth, Australia. But Romero would not be Romero if he did not deliver headline material. The 40-year-old, who has the physical appearance of a Marvel action hero, missed weight by over three pounds. The validity of yet another interim title fight in the UFC was out the window, if there had been any to begin with. Rockhold still agreed to fight Romero to keep his chance of winning the interim belt, since he made weight, and setting up a future title fight against Whittaker.
If that was not confusing enough, Romero won the bout by knocking Rockhold’s head into the Octagon fence. So, the UFC is stuck with Romero, whose leg may or may not be severely injured to put the icing on the cake. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported that Dana White already confirmed Romero would get the next title shot when Whittaker is healthy and ready to go. Granted, White’s words do not mean much these days. The promoter has become a perpetual liar and seems to change his opinion on a day-to-day basis.
Romero, however, has gathered both a following and a growing group of haters over the years. Some just like him in an ironic way and go crazy about how oddly he conducts himself, how he suddenly appears in a UFC Embedded video sitting in a dark corner of Jorge Masvidal’s hotel room, how he repeatedly screams “boy” at Michael Bisping, how he does flips entering the cage and thus already blows up before the fight. Others hate Romero for his almost unnatural physique at his age, for the one drug-test failure that was later explained by a tainted supplement, for “stool gate” in the Kennedy fight before knocking him out, for the general feeling that he has cheated his way to the top.
Romero might be the one middleweight fighter in the UFC who draws somewhat of a reaction from the audience. It makes him special, just like every event he is a part of. Just like these past few days.