Romero told MMA Fighting that he believes the punches Kennedy rocked him with in the second round of their UFC 178 fight were illegal. Kennedy was holding onto Romero's glove, an illegal maneuver, with his left hand while he was punching Romero with his right. A .gif of the sequence surfaced after the fact online, but Romero had not commented on it until now.
"When an athlete hits the opponent illegally, the opponent that gets hit gets five minutes of a break to recover," Romero said through an interpreter of the Sept. 27 bout in Las Vegas.
The fight's big controversy came after Romero survived the second round. The UFC's cutman appeared to put too much Vaseline on Romero's face, prompting referee John McCarthy to tell Romero's cornermen to wipe it off. There seemed to be some kind of communication error, because Romero was left alone in the Octagon on his stool as McCarthy was restarting the fight for the third round.
By the time someone came in to clean off Romero's face and remove the stool, Romero had nearly 30 extra seconds to recuperate from the second-round throttling. Kennedy was irate. Then, Romero knocked him out just 38 seconds into the third round. Kennedy contemplated appealing the result of the fight, but things like that rarely get overturned by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC).
Romero came over to Kennedy to apologize for the mistake in the back after the fight. The moment, with an angry Kennedy yelling at Romero, was captured on video by UFC cameras. Romero continues to defend himself for the incident.
"The people who made the mistake were the cutmen from the UFC," Romero said. "The referee noticed too much Vaseline. The cutman was already leaving and McCarthy called him back to clean off the Vaseline. He noticed the cutman already leaving. When the cutman leaves, who's supposed to take the Vaseline off my cut? My cornermen and trainer were there, but they're not qualified to take off the Vaseline from my cut. The one who cleans and puts on Vaseline is only the cutman from the UFC. McCarthy insisted and my trainer said, 'OK, I'll take it off.'"
UFC president Dana White admitted afterward that the UFC was partially at fault for the bizarre turn of events. Romero stands by his statement that he did nothing wrong intentionally.
"The people who critique me are the people who don't know about the sport," Romero said. "They don't really know about the rules of MMA. They aren't a real fan or follower of the sport or they're just people who like to talk."
Romero said Kennedy began holding his glove when the two were against the cage right before Kennedy dropped him with punches.
"Look at the video," Romero said. "He was holding my glove illegally. When I'm against the cage, Tim Kennedy held my glove and when he holds the glove, he got lucky and I escaped before the referee saw it. Then I did it to Kennedy. When I did it to Tim Kennedy, he told the referee, 'He held my glove.'"
That led to the sequence where Kennedy chased Romero across the cage, holding onto his glove with one hand and connecting with punches with the other. Romero said he isn't sure if it was on purpose. And he's not necessarily interested in a rematch.
"This is nothing personal," Romero said. "If the UFC matchmaker puts me against Tim Kennedy, I will do it. I have no problem with that. I have nothing against nobody in the UFC. This is a sport for me."
Romero has moved on. He'll meet Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at UFC 184 on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles in what probably amounts to a middleweight No. 1 contender bout. The 37-year-old former Olympic wrestling silver medalist is focused on the title and not what people are saying about him following "Stoolgate."
"I'm not mad and I've never been mad that people think I'm cheating," Romero said. "To be sincere, I've never been mad about what anyone thinks."