Three-time title challenger Yoel Romero has parted ways with the UFC after seven years with the promotion and with three fights still left on his contract.
— UFC (@ufc) March 4, 2020
Ariel Helwani of ESPN reports that former three-time title challenger Yoel Romero and the UFC have parted ways. The news reportedly comes from multiple sources including Romero’s manager Malki Kawa. Romero reportedly had three fights left on his current UFC contract and neither side has come forward yet to say exactly why the two parted ways.
A silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, “The Soldier of God” entered the UFC in 2013 as part of the absorption of Strikeforce. At the time only 5-1 in his MMA career, Romero would soon become one of the most dangerous forces in the middleweight division as he would go on an eight fight win-streak with stoppages over Lyoto Machida, Derek Brunson, and Chris Weidman.
Romero is best known for his three challenges for the middleweight championship. He fought Australia’s Robert Whittaker in five round affairs in both 2018 and 2019 in what were both Fight of the Year candidates. Romero challenged current champion Israel Adesanya earlier this March in what was the final UFC event to have fans in 2020 prior to national closures amidst the current pandemic. The fight with Adesanya would end up being the final fight of Romero’s UFC tenure.
Though his run was amongst the most impressive of the last decade in the middleweight division, it did not come without controversy. Romero’s bout with Tim Kennedy would infamously go down as “Stoolgate” for the fact that Kennedy had Romero badly hurt at the end of the second round and Romero took extra time on his stool between rounds before eventually coming out and scoring a comeback victory. Romero would find himself in controversy again, this time for failed USADA test in 2015 though the ruling was later overturned as it was proven that it was due to a tainted supplement.
Romero’s last UFC victory was in 2019 where he stepped in on short notice to fight former champion Luke Rockhold and won via third round knockout. The fight was scheduled to be an interim title fight although Romero was ineligible to win the belt due to missing weight. Romero was most recently scheduled to fight Uriah Hall this past August but he withdrew eleven days out from the bout due to undisclosed reasons.
There is no word yet on a possible destination or future for Romero, though it is assumed that other promotions from Bellator, PFL, ONE Championship, and RIZIN are expected to be in consideration should be choose to continue fighting.