Yoel Romero has been one of the first casualties of the UFC's planned year-end cuts. The Soldier of God had been a perennial contender in the Middleweight division and was in a title fight against Israel Adesanya in early 2020.
UFC President Dana White admitted after the cut that the company are looking to release up to 60 fighters by the end of the year.
"We're going to go through some serious cuts here at the end of the year. Probably going to have 60 cuts coming up before the first of the year. Our roster is very inflated right now.
We're going to have some big cuts coming before the end of the year. You're going to see a lot of names going here in the next couple of weeks," he said.
Yoel Romero, a former Olympic Silver Medalist, has come up short twice while challenging for the belt at 185 pounds. After the loss to Adesanya, Romero appeared to be at the crossroads given he is 43-years-old.
Although, the Cuban had not shown any visible sign of regression despite being on the losing side in his last two fights.
Against the champion Adesanya, Yoel Romero minimised his risks by refusing to lead the dance. The fight ended up being a classic counter-striker vs counter-striker battle, with the champion winning on points in a largely uneventful affair.
UFC president Dana White's stance on Yoel Romero
Self-admittedly, the release came as a surprise to Yoel Romero himself, who was preparing for one last shot at the title (via ESPN):
I was already in training, very hard, getting ready. We were already thinking about fighting in January or February in 185 [pounds] or 205. We were looking to fight with the top three in either division. My managers explained this to the top of the UFC. [The UFC] wanted [me] to fight with Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson.
We explained that it didn't make sense for [me] to fight with these young men. We had an idea we were chasing the world title. The way we were training, we knew we had one or two fights and then go for the belt. Our thought was fighting any of these guys in the back of the roster was taking steps backwards, not forwards.
They came back with an offer for us to fight Johnny Walker at 205. My managers initially were saying who we wanted: Dominick Reyes, Glover, Santos and Anthony Smith. And it was back and forth, kind of quiet on their end; and once they reached back, it was we couldn't come to an agreement and they were going to commit to the release.
The UFC perhaps didn't want to offer Yoel Romero big fights, given his last two title fights were not as crowd pleasing as Dana White would have liked them to be.
On the other hand, it doesn't make sense for Romero at this point in his career to become the division's proverbial gatekeeper as well.
It'll be interesting to see if Yoel Romero is able to pick up the LHW title at Bellator. It is being reported that he may fight fellow new signee and UFC old boy Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson in his first fight in the promotion.Published 17 Dec 2020, 14:26 IST