It took Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero just under 15 minutes to once again be at the center of controversy after just coming off of a six-month suspension given to him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA.) However, this is not a typical controversy one might expect. It’s all about: a title shot.
Romero only got six months as opposed to a year after it was revealed that the banned substance he tested positive for (Ibutamoren, a growth hormone secretagogue as initially reported by MMAFighting.com) wasn’t listed on the label of his supplement. The Cuban Olympic silver medalist in wrestling served his time and returned to action at UFC 205 in New York City, stopping hometown favorite Chris Weidman by knockout via a flying knee and strikes in the third round.
He then entered middleweight title talk given that his now 8-0 in the UFC (13-1 overall with 11 finishes.) The question is: Is putting him in the championship picture the right thing to do given his performance-enhancer-based suspension?
Given the circumstances, his record, and that the suspension is now simply a thing of the past–sure (This point will be explained further.) UFC President Dana White agrees. “That’s the fight that makes sense,” he told the press last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. “…I don’t know when, but yeah, that’s the fight.”
Although the middleweight contender has served his suspension, he will always be a guilty offender in the court of public opinion that got off on a technicality. Does he deserve the shot at gold? That will always be up for debate. Depending on how you view the situation, if division champion Michael “The Count” Bisping stops Romero, then the storyline of that fight will become one of justice being served–which is good for business.
Despite his initial objections to fighting Romero even if he beat Weidman, Bisping has since recently agreed to take on the hot topic of discussion at some point in the spring. The Brit essentially said that the performance against “The All-American” sealed the deal.
“So a couple of days ago Dana calls me up… and he’s like ‘Mike, January 20. Anaheim, You vs. Yoel Romero” Bisping said on his Sirius XM program. “I said well, to be honest, Dana I’ve been getting injections on my knee. Now I’m not saying no to Yoel because believe it or not, after beating Weidman like that, yeah I do fancy it.” “…Yoel beat him and fair enough I guess. In the fight before, even though he tested positive, he beat Jacare, he beat Weidman, and he beat of a bunch of no marks before that. So I guess that would be the fight.”
“…But will I fight him? God d*mn f*cking right I’ll fight him,” Bisping continued.
Yoel Romero’s Drug Test Failure a Looming Issue
He has practically mandated as the champion that the challenger be placed under an even better microscope than before.
“I’ve fought a lot of cheaters of the years and my stance on that stuff is strong as you know, but if that’s the fight that’s gonna go down – I don’t want people to be like, ‘he’s just ducking Romero. He’s ducking Romero’ because that’s not the case at all. I’m not ducking Romero so f*ck it. If that’s the circumstances, that’s the circumstances. But I want very, very stringent testing throughout camp. I want him to be tested pretty much every week on a random day.”
Ahead of the Weidman contest Romero even went as far to show USADA administering his drug test through a video on Instagram last month adding that he has been tested every month since the beginning of the USADA-UFC partnership. He also went on to give his opinion to the media on the criticism from fans about the ruling of his suspension.
He analogized, “If you’re gonna make comments on world history, make sure you learn world history. If you’re gonna save lives and be a doctor, you need to study medicine. Then, you will be able to make comments on economy, on medicine, and on world history.”
When speaking with Karyn Bryant of UFC on Fox and MMA H.E.A.T. the follower of Christ (as his nickname would imply) revealed that during the entire process of getting back to the cage, he was fueled by an intense anger “because he’s never used steroids, will never use steroids, and sad because he was arguing with God that if he knows that he’s clean, why was he along this to happen? But God answers all his questions” a translator said.
Romero has, for the most part, moved on by focusing on the task at hand: winning the title.
“In other words, it’s not what they teach you,” Romero again told MMAFighting. “It’s what you want to see. USADA can show and teach, UFC can show and teach the fans, but what do the fan want to see? Never was it talked about steroids when USADA gave out their [press release].”
With the pre-fight hype and trash-talk already underway, have a look at the matchup.
Bisping admitted on Sirius XM that part of the reason for needing time off was to heal up a couple of nagging injuries. He didn’t go into the severity of these injuries but based on the context, they seem to just be the product of a long career.
- According to FightMetric LLC, this fight could be a really tight one as Bisping leads Romero in significant strikes landed per minute (4.44 to 3.26) although his opponent leads by a wide margin in accuracy (54 percent to 38 percent.)
- However, the Olympian has the edge in takedown defense by 13 percent (77 to 64.)
- Oftentimes, two wrestlers cancel each other out and that results in a boxing match. While Bisping’s wrestling and wrestling as a whole have improved in the UK, Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh recently pointed out that the UK teaches boxing from youth– advantage Bisping.
“If I go out there and beat Yoel Romero then you can’t deny any of my achievements,” Bisping said. “There are some a**holes still out there who say, ‘he got lucky against Rockhold and he picked on an old guy against Henderson.’ I want to fight the No. 1 contender. I want to.”
Bisping did turn down the January date though to enjoy some time off for the holidays. So, with the fight almost locked in, again, is the Romero fight the right thing to do?
Again, the answer is yes. Should Romero top the champion then that will most likely infuriate a good portion of the fanbase and mean that his first title defense would sell well on pay-per-view for those that would want to see him lose–in similar fashion to a McGregor fight or the debut of former WWE superstar, Phil “CM Punk” Brooks. This is also good for business.
Does anything more need to be said?