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Post-fight interviews have become an extension of fight game drama

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Yoel Romero has never had what you might call "polished mic skills," but Saturday night the Cuban fighter took a sharp left turn in his post-fight interview when he touched on (what turned out to be) the very tenants of the American Dream. What that entails exactly is of course a matter of taste, but in Romero’s translation it involves a healthy dose of Jesus.

Possibly the pushing away of Jesus.

Possibly a "gay Jesus."

And it’s at least possible, I suppose, if we’re using the most archaic thesaurus, that he was talking about a gay Jesus in the oft-forgotten Flintstones sense of the word. Read: A "happy Jesus."

Here, decide for yourself.

Whatever it was, the "Soldier of God" tried it in English. He capped his main event victory over former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 70 by tightening up the Bible belt on live television just as the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a right. First it was devastating elbows that busted up Machida’s face, which signaled his true arrival as a contender. Then it was him careening off on a track with a (more than likely) religio-political statement in a time of Great Calling Out. He could have pointed a ham-fist at Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and said, "let’s try this again," or sent a message to the champ Chris Weidman, but instead Romero took it upon himself to add some conscience to the end of the rainbow.

Or at least, it sounded like that. It could have been that he was talking about white picket fences and really strong Wi-Fi, as he later clarified. You know, the American dream. Romero said that’s what he meant in the post-fight press conference, reminding everyone that he is a product of love.

Also possible. The only thing certain is that Romero’s worldview is one of simple proclamations and revisions, which pisses a lot of people off.

And if it proved anything it’s that what happens after the fight is beginning to stand out more than what happens during the fight. A couple of months back, it was Al Iaquinta who was ready to throw down with the entire state of Virginia after hearing some boos in victory. "Are you booing me? You better not be booing me," he threatened the general mass after getting a decision over Jorge Masvidal. "I f---ing worked my ass off. F--- you!"

This put everyone in a festive mood.

Next thing you know his teammates at Serra-Longo (people like Aljamain Sterling) began to riff on him in their own post-fight interviews. These days the hot mic is expanding from chest-thumping careerism to bumbling inside jokes and plays on morality. And panhandling. We’ve seen many fighters over the last year follow-up a dominant showing by pleading for a performance bonus, as if the UFC’s honchos are actually laurel-wearing Roman emperors with fate bound in the direction of their thumbs.

(Ridiculous, of course. Dana White doesn’t wear laurels).

No, for everything we learn about a fighter in the cage, we learn just as much about the person moments later. These things don’t often jibe as nicely as we’d like. We’re either enamored on all fronts (Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s a freaking star!) or left scratching our heads (did Brock Lesnar just say he was going to get on his wife?).

(And don’t even get me started on Neil Magny. After winning something like 32 fights in a calendar year, Magny gave the old "I’ll fight whoever the UFC wants me to next" when it was time to take a step forward. Buzzkill? No, no, no…egregious! Submissive! Negligent!)

The point is, it’s gotten to be the game within the game, this figuring out who’s cool and who ain’t by how they express themselves in the afterglow of a fight. It used to be people thanked their sponsors and/or called somebody out, after paying respect to the game opposition they just vanquished. These days there’s no telling. It could be Benson Henderson throwing it back to the Big Man Upstairs (or proposing to his girlfriend), or pure unhinged evil. It could be Gegard Mousasi working as a sedative, or Jacob Volkmann bombing with an Obama joke that ends in a "glassectomy."

Or it could be Romero essentially diminishing his greatest performance to date just seconds after achieving it. Romero used his platform to make some kind of statement, which is his right. And maybe that’s what he meant later by the American Dream -- that people are free to express themselves as they please, even with insensitive non-sequiturs in big spots on live television just when a few fans wanted to like him. That’s the power of the platform, and the beauty of the set-up. There’s freedom to say what you want, with the only thing standing between a fighter and the microphone being the certainly of consequences.

And give this to Yoel Romero, he certainly got his message across. After his rant on Saturday, the one word on a lot of people’s lips was indeed "Jesus." Some people even added the "H. Christ" for emphasis.

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