A friend and I were at a brewery in Houston (Eureka Heights, and I highly recommend it) on Saturday afternoon and the topic of conversation came around to the main event of UFC 248. He’d never heard of Israel Adensanya or Yoel Romero, so I tried to describe both men and their respective styles in as few words as possible because, quite frankly, I had beer to drink.
Adesanya was unlike anything he’d ever seen. Like Anderson Silva, but evolved, and even more charismatic.
Romero? He’s a physical freak of nature and former Olympic wrestler.
But the main thing about Romero?
“He’s weird,” I said.
He asked what I meant, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. “He’s just…he’s weird,” I said. “He’s terrifying and faster than just about anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s always been nice to me. But he also just does weird shit in the cage. I never really know what to expect, and it’s hard to describe.”
Thankfully, Romero went into the Octagon a few hours later and did the exact sort of weird shit I was talking about when he spent the first two or so minutes of what might be the last title shot of his career just standing in the middle of the Octagon.
And so began what can only be described as A Very Yoel Romero fight.
That’s the story of Romero’s career.
The man is literally a world-class wrestler who refuses to use his wrestling, even though it would give him a sizable advantage over almost every opponent he faces. Plenty of excellent wrestlers fall in love with the stand-up game when they transition to MMA—and who can blame them for doing so after a lifetime spent on the mat—but this is different. Has there ever been another top-level competitor who steadfastly refuses to use his single greatest asset? I can’t think of one. (Let me know in who I missed in the comments below)
Some of you likely walked away from Saturday night with little desire to ever see Romero fight again. Not me. Yeah, the fight was boring and underwhelming, but this is why Romero is both fascinating and scary as hell. Why would someone do this kinda shit? And in a title fight, no less?
The best part, however, was Romero capping off the night by using his interview time with Joe Rogan to…rant about fans paying hard-earned money to see a fight, seemingly blaming Adesanya for not engaging him enough?
Not this! A fight! Not this!
Rogan could barely keep a puzzled look from creeping across his face. From the safety of my couch 2,000 miles away, I laughed a good, deep belly laugh.
This is exactly the sort of thing that makes Romero must-watch television for me, even if his fights aren’t exactly thrilling to watch. In a sport where events fade quickly from memory, and where so few athletes become anything more than another face in the crowd, Yoel Romero is unforgettable.