Yoel Romero has lost three of his past four fights, yet the former Cuban Olympic wrestler seems to be a popular choice when it comes to being the next challenger for Israel Adesanya‘s UFC middleweight championship.
Does the “Soldier of God” think he’ll be the next challenger? Adesanya said he’ll be willing to fight Romero, although he said the UFC is less than enthused about marketing that fight.
Romero will be on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on Monday, along with several other noteworthy guests, to discuss the latest news.
Among those is rising star Cory Sandhagen, who is set to be the first to battle Frankie Edgar at 135 pounds in January. Also joining Helwani will be James Krause and Paul Craig, who both opened eyes with their performances this past weekend in Sao Paulo. Former pro wrestling star Mick Foley is scheduled to appear, as is the always entertaining Ben Askren.
Ben Askren retires
Ben Askren told Ariel Helwani that his time in MMA has come to an end. Askren retires with a record of 19-2 and 1 no-contest, and says he will undergo hip surgery.
“I’m retiring from the sport of mixed martial arts, and frankly I’m retiring from everything,” said Askren. “I’ve been having hip problems, and I finally had the discussion with my doctor … and I need a (left) hip replacement. So, man, that’s it for me. I’ve been thinking about this for a week and what I was going to say, and I’m filled with gratitude for how great of a career I’ve been able to have, even though obviously in the end it did not turn out to go my way.”
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 18, 2019
Yoel Romero sends a message to Israel Adensanya
Israel Adesanya made a definitive statement in October when he defeated Robert Whittaker for the UFC middleweight championship, and had a clear picture of his first title defense as potential challenger Paolo Costa sat ringside in Melbourne. But then Costa went down with a biceps injury, leaving the future at the top of the division unclear.
Enter Yoel Romero. The former middleweight title challenger has had something of a rough time of late, dropping three out of his last four, but context is key. Those losses were a unanimous decision and a split decision in a pair of fights against Whittaker, and as a tight decision to Costa in August — a fight Romero still contests he won.
With Whittaker cleanly dispatched and Costa down, Romero is still the No. 3 contender in the world –and he’s already drawn Adesanya’s attention. During his appearance on Monday’s Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, Romero made it clear that he’s ready to sign on the dotted line the second an official offer is made.
“I have the pen in my hand. Give me the contract,” said Romero. “If Israel wants to fight me, you don’t need to call me. You need to say the president, the big boss of the UFC, ‘I want this guy.'”
While weight-cutting issues turned one of the Whittaker fights as well as a victory over Luke Rockhold into non-title fights, Romero is confident that he can line everything up and capture the middleweight title — a championship he believes he deserves.
Romero also has a vision for the type of champion he would be — and the type of champion he hopes Adesanya will turn out to be, one who couldn’t help but offer Romero the next title challenge.
“The day is coming. The day when I have the belt on my waist, I don’t want anybody saying to me , ‘Hey, you need to fight this guy’…. no, no, no. Give me the number one. Give me the best in the line. I don’t want to be a puppet guy.”
Romero’s final words for Adesanya was simple, laying down the gauntlet for the new champion.
“You have the belt, but I am the best of the middleweights,” Romero said.
Junior dos Santos recovering from surgeries due to bacterial infection
Junior dos Santos was in the gym one Friday last month training for a fight when he had to stop. While kicking the heavy bag, he started feeling pain in his lower left leg. He decided it would be best to call it a day.
The next morning, JDS noticed an area of redness on the leg. He didn’t think much of it. “It’s normal for us,” he said. “We are kicking and getting these bruises all the time.”
But one day later his leg was even redder, more painful and feeling hot. The former UFC heavyweight champion called his doctor, who told him to get right to a hospital.
What followed was a nine-day hospital stay during which dos Santos underwent three surgeries to address a bacterial infection, “a very bad one,” he said. “The doctor said that if I waited just a little bit more [before going to the hospital], like one day or two days more, maybe I could lose my leg or even die.”
Obviously, the Nov. 9 fight against Alexander Volkov had to be canceled.
But now JDS is feeling better, is back to training — minus kicking with his left leg, for now — and is back on the UFC schedule, with a fight against Curtis Blaydes slated for Jan. 25.
“I am a lucky guy,” said dos Santos. “I was wondering [after this ordeal] about how fragile we are. Because man, I was feeling great.”
But does he feel great about switching opponents from a striker (Volkov) to a wrestler (Blaydes)?
“I really don’t care about who’s my opponent, who’s in front of me,” said dos Santos. “I am coming to give the best of myself.”
Mick Foley on the relationship between MMA and professional wrestling
Mick Foley wouldn’t be the first pro wrestler who comes to mind when considering the crossover potential between MMA and professional wrestling; not when former UFC champions like Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and Ronda Rousey, and fighters like Shayna Baszler or Matt Riddle are currently under contract with the WWE.
But as Ariel Helwani was discussing all of the elements of pro wrestling that have found their way MMA with Foley, from fight promotion to broadcast presentation, the WWE Hall of Famer turned the conversation around, explaining what MMA has given back to wrestling, beyond building up the roster.
“I think we borrow from each other,” said Foley. “The popularity of MMA has allowed our world to embrace submission wrestling in a way that wasn’t possible, unless you were wrestling in Japan.”
Foley rose to prominence in the United States during his time in WCW, ECW and eventually WWE, but built his reputation, in part, by wrestling in Japan. While submission wrestling is stylistically divergent from Foley’s daredevil, unconventional approach, as a student and fan of the business, he’s enjoyed the way it’s been embraced by an American audience in recent years.
“The Japanese [fans] had a better appreciation for what and what does not hurt. In wrestling, you just couldn’t emphasize the pain,” recalled Foley. “[American fans wouldn’t appreciate the] real pain that you can’t register facially, something hurts so much that you can’t actually sell it, as we say in our trade.”
Cory Sandhagen on his Jan. 25 opponent, former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar
“He is a legend. He’s been around the sport forever. I think I heard the other day, his first fight was in 2005. I was 13 when that happened, which is crazy to think about. And it kind of got me thinking about the importance of a [championship] belt versus fighting guys that are at the level of Frankie. I would almost say that if I was offered to fight [Henry] Cejudo for a belt or fight Frankie Edgar before he retires, if would be really hard for me to convince myself that it wouldn’t be cooler to fight Frankie. I’m really excited for it.”
Cesar Gracie says the BMF belt should belong to Nick Diaz
Cesar Gracie said on Monday’s Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that during a conversation on Sunday, Nick Diaz sounded excited to fight, something that he hasn’t done since 2015. Diaz hinted at wanting to return soon to face Jorge Masvidal, who defeated Nick’s brother Nate for the “BMF” title at UFC 244.
Gracie said he’s in support of Nick taking that fight — and the title.
“That is Nick’s belt,” Gracie said. “Nick is the BMF.”
Diaz began training with Gracie at 16.