Yoel Romero, the “Soldier of God,” will look to capture UFC gold in tomorrow night’s UFC 248 main event. In this week’s edition of King & Slim, Ant Walker and Kristen King debate whether the former title contender deserves yet another opportunity, especially after coming off a loss to Paulo Costa at UFC 241.
Ant: Why are you ok with Yoel Romero getting a shot at the middleweight belt Saturday night?
Kristen: I’m ok with it because if it wasn’t going to be Paulo Costa, Romero is the next man in line when you look at the rankings. Right now he sits at number three behind Costa and Whittaker. Adesanya convincingly handled Whittaker to win the belt and Costa is injured. I’d love to see Borrichinua make good on his contendership but that obviously didn’t work out. So that being said, Romero gets the call.
A lot of people thought he should’ve gotten the decision against Costa at UFC 241. The two people you probably had in mind, Jared Cannonier and Darren Till, are still behind Romero in the pecking order. I’m good with those two fighting to determine who fights the winner of this weekend’s main event. So that’s why I’m ok with it. It went down the line. What else do you want?
Ant: Let’s not act like the UFC rankings are anything close to legitimate. So I can’t ride with the rankings argument. That’s especially true considering that the number three guy is on a two fight losing streak and has dropped three of his last four. While you have Cannonier knocking heads off and Darren Till fresh off of a quality win in his middleweight debut, it just seems like Romero is being slotted into this.
Obviously, this is an entertaining pairing. Anytime you put Romero near a cage, something exciting is almost destined to happen. In that sense everybody is ok with it. But, I’m disturbed about this pattern of the UFC awarded title shots to fighters coming off of losses. When Jose Aldo challenging Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight belt is right around the corner despite his two fight skid and being winless at 135, it just feels wrong.
I know we’re here to be entertained. But if we’re at least attempting to maintain the illusion of a fair and balanced sport, title shots shouldn’t be awarded during losing streaks. Even if those losses can be called controversial, they’re still losses. Let’s not even mention the fact that Romero has missed weight the last two times he was scheduled for a title fight.
Kristen: Let’s look at it from this point of view: while they shouldn’t have been awarded these opportunities based on the losses they’ve suffered in their respective divisions let’s remember that the champions called them out for these bouts. If Adesanya and Cejudo are knocking the UFC’s door down demanding these fights, can you really be that upset?
The UFC is putting emphasis on what the champions want. As cliche as it sounds, “ask and you shall receive.” In both of these instances they got what they wanted. Maybe they should do a better job of putting their foot down and making sure that rightful contenders get the title shots but as you said it’s about entertainment. These are the bigger fights and this is what we have.
Ant: The UFC hasn’t always just fulfilled the wishes of their champions. TJ Dillashaw never got that Demetrious Johnson fight and Tyron Woodley never got face Georges St. Pierre or the Diaz brothers. That includes champions with greater status and more popularity than these two. Anderson Silva never got to box Roy Jones Jr. and Daniel Cormier never got to fight Brock Lesnar either. There are countless examples of the UFC ignoring what the champion wanted in favor of what made more sense for the company.
I’m not mad at either man calling out someone coming off of a loss. That goes double for Adesanya for calling someone as wild and dangerous as Romero. But I expect fighters to act in their own self interests.
As a champion you get paid more and get a pay per view cut so keeping that belt for as long as possible while fighting the biggest name possible ensures more money. If I’m a champion I’m going to ask for whatever will fatten my bank account. So if I’m Cejudo and I’m getting PPV points, an Aldo fight sounds great. Not only is he more popular than Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan, but I also may have a better chance of retaining the belt against the aging veteran with who’s winless in the weight class.
That’s probably not the same case with Adesanya because he’s talking very specifically about legacy and how a Romero win will boost his legacy right now. I don’t quite agree with that. With two consecutive losses, is this the version of Romero that does the most for that legacy? Would taking out Cannonier who is on an impressive run be better for his place in history?
Kristen: That’s actually a good point, but I think that the mythical creature that is Yoel Romero is always going to be a solid win. I’m willing to bet that was Adesanya’s mindset when begging for this fight. Knockout machine who also happens to be a dynamic Olympic caliber wrestler would be a great feather in his cap.
Do you think that Adesanya and Cejudo being personality driven along with their in cage talents gave them a little more leeway with the matchmaking?
Ant: That’s possible, but I think the UFC will always go toward whatever they think will make the most money. As far as the personalities and characters are involved, it’s all about making people care enough to watch you. Love, hate, boo, or cheer as long as it motivates someone to reach for their credit card. Maybe I’m just being a grumpy purist. I just feel that challengers should be coming off of wins.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for this fight. I’m such a hypocrite. I’m watching, I’m fully invested and genuinely curious about how this is going to play out.
Kristen: Me too, you know me. You know I want to see contenders get rewarded. But if they want to get this one out of the way and this be Izzy’s first defense, I’m not complaining. Costa will be there for whatever post fight confrontation and drama while he’s healing up. Cannonier is now hurt of course but he can fight either Whittaker or Till and order will be restored. As much of a purist I consider myself, I’m totally ok with that scenario.
Ant: But a fight against Romero isn’t something you just “get out of the way.” He can be an otherworldly destructive force that can throw a monkey wrench in whatever the plan is. I commend Izzy for taking this challenge when he doesn’t necessarily have to. As active as he was leading up to winning the undisputed title, he’s earned a break. When the number one contender is injured and you’ve done that much work, it’s ok to chill for a few more months. By the way, Adesanya vs. Costa is also a bankable fight for some of the same reasons as this one.
Ok, so maybe you think Cannonier needs one more for public interests. Maybe you also think that while Till defeated Gastelum maybe a decision in a fight that wasn’t very fun to watch isn’t enough. I’m willing to accept those arguments to an extent. But I’m not willing to accept those arguments and say yeah let’s just get Romero out of the way. If you want to raise the anger and disgust of the MMA Gods, then play around with stuff like this.
Kristen: It works that way in this case because those were the cards dealt. What else was Adesanya going to do?
Ant: Sit down for two more months.
Kristen: If he wants to be an active champion, then by all means do it. Plus, this could be Romero’s last chance to earn gold. At the risk of sounding like Joe Rogan he’s a freak of nature. Maybe he misses weight. I don’t know. If he’s willing to accept those risks and face him, more power to him. They were going to mean down the line eventually, right?
Ant: Not necessarily, a two fight losing streak may suggest otherwise. Multiple times missing championship weight suggest that as well. Do I need to remind you about what happened in the last flyweight title fight?
Kristen: I understand that point of view and maybe gives your argument more ammunition. However, Adesanya is not that kind of person. He’s just ready to be the champion he always said he wanted to be. He’s looking at who is next on the chopping block and four out of the five at the top have an issue ruling them out. Well here comes Romero.
This is a fight we wanted to see anyway. I know you really wanted to see this match up. So let’s just do it now. We’ll see what happens with the other contenders when they’re ready. But who’s ready now? Yoel Romero