Earlier this month, the UFC caught the MMA world by surprise when it released former three-time UFC middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero from his contract with the organization. Though Romero has had a rough run of late, his last bout was a razor thin loss to current champion Israel Adesanya and Romero was still ranked in the top-five of the division. Given Romero’s status as an elite middleweight, many assumed that Bellator would quickly snap him up, but in another surprising turn of events, Bellator CEO Scott Coker publicly stated that they weren’t interested in “The Soldier of God” because they were focused on their current roster of talent. That didn’t last long though. Less than a week later, Romero signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator and is expected to make his debut for the organization early in 2021.
So what happened? How did Bellator go from not being interested in the former Olympic Silver Medalist to signing him in just a few days? Well, Scott Coker says the community changed his mind.
“Yoel started with us in Strikeforce back in 2008,” Coker told MMAJunkie. “Part of me wanted to do it. Part of me didn’t want to do it. After we signed (Anthony) ‘Rumble’ (Johnson), we had the chance to (sign) Yoel. We passed on (him). I’ll tell you, honestly, the amount of support he got coming through our doors and through the social channels really was impressive. Everybody wanted to see the Yoel Romero vs. ‘Rumble’ Johnson fight. I huddled up with my team.
“I’ll tell you one thing in this situation people don’t really realize: Even if we said we were going to pass, we talk to these agents all the time – every day. Yoel’s name kept coming up and coming up. Finally, I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s just add him into the mix.’”
Signing Yoel was certainly not a no-brainer for Coker. Romero is 43 years old , riding a three-fight losing streak, and coming off what is widely considered to be the worst fight of 2020. But despite all of that, Coker believes that Romero still has a lot left to offer the MMA world inside the cage.
“He’s (such) an amazing talent,” Coker said. “He still is somebody that is very dangerous. He definitely can still fight. I said, ‘Let’s put him in the mix, and let’s just go for it.’ I’m glad we did. I had a little chat with him. It was great. He seems like such a nice guy and very mature. I’m looking forward to putting him into our 205-pound mix sometime next year.”
Bellator is expecting Romero to primarily compete in their light heavyweight division, while Romero’s management team has indicated he’s interested in competing at middleweight and light heavyweight, and even heavyweight if the opportunity presents itself. First up though is likely to be a bout with fellow recent signee Anthony Johnson early in 2021, and the winner will almost certainly go on to challenge for the 205-pound title later in the year.
KOTY. Joaquin Buckley’s KO of Impa Kasanganay wins 2020 Knockout of the Year honors.
SOTY. A.J. McKee’s choke of Darrion Caldwell wins 2020 Submission of the Year honors.
BFTOY. Khamzat Chimaev wins 2020 Breakout Fighter of the Year honors.
PFL. Former UFC champion Anthony Pettis joins PFL roster for 2021 season.
Beef. Conor McGregor takes shots at Ali Abdelaziz, Khamzat Chimaev responds.
Big. John McCarthy savages Dana White’s MMA media hit piece: ‘Real leaders, they don’t have to take credit’.
What the Heck.
The new UFC champions this year.
TUF through the years.
Bellator’s best submissions from 2020.
Ngannou doing a pre-fight camp video series.
Jake Paul shoots down Amanda Nunes fight.
On to the Next One. Discussing the top-five fights we didn’t get to see in 2020.
Heavy Hands. Belatedly discussing the final UFC fight card of the year.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Thk u for voting me analyst of the year.I really appreciate the support and thankful that you guys enjoy my work. I’m thankful for @granity ,detail and @espn for trusting me with KB’s vision, , @ufc and @easportsufc for all the opportunity. My family and team I love you! #2x pic.twitter.com/AaWv0u4MXL
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) December 27, 2020
Askren losing faith in Jake Paul.
Hopefully Santa brings @jakepaul some courage for Christmas next year. pic.twitter.com/G7z7UTsfBd
— Funky (@Benaskren) December 27, 2020
They Can Try!!! pic.twitter.com/qfkLTzsors
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) December 27, 2020
Try? You know exactly what I’m going to do! Feb 13 is the date for a new king! #AndNew
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) December 27, 2020
It’s that time of the year.
Just used a jacket that’s been in my dirty gym clothes pile for a few days if not weeks… yeah… fuck I’m gross
— Louis Smolka (@LASTSAMURAIUFC) December 27, 2020
Joaquin Buckley (12-3) vs. Alessio Di Chrico (12-5); UFC Fight Night, Jan. 16.
Phil Hawes (9-2) vs. Nassourdine Imavov (9-2); UFC Fight Night, Jan. 16.
Manon Fiorot (5-1) vs. Victoria Leonardo (8-2); UFC Fight Night, Jan. 20.
Alexandre Pantoja (22-5) vs. Manel Kape (15-4); UFC Fight Night, Feb. 6.
Devonte Smith (10-2) vs. Alex da Silva (21-3); UFC Fight Night, Feb. 6.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
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