Yoel Romero was animated and opinionated on Tuesday. The top UFC middleweight contender spoke to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, and as he gets ready for his suspension to end in less than two weeks, the Cuban wrestler said he's more ready than ever to put his stamp on the sport.
"I'm very excited because I want to come back. I want the people to see next time again, the people see again I will come back in action," he said. "I'm training a lot. I never stop. I'm very excited. I'm very excited."
Romero will return from a six-month suspension that began on Jan. 13th that stemmed from taking a tainted supplement. USADA suspended Romero only six months after they determined he had been clean during fight camp and fight night tests. In addition, the anti-doping organization was able to determine the supplement in question had a wider problem of contamination in their product line.
That, Romero said, is the fact everyone should remember. When it comes to being tested frequently and passing said exams, Romero argued he's done everything asked of him.
"I want to make real clear that every single test that has been done on me has always been very clear. The five tests that they did during the training camp and the day before, the night before the fight - the final exam - all of those came out negative," he noted.
"He's always been against steroids," Romero's translator added. "He's never touched steroids and he's always been willing and open to take as many tests, examines, whatever that needs to be done to prove his merit in this, but in a way, he did get a chance to realize how many false faces, how many Judases, there are around him, he had around him.
"He doesn't need anyone to apologize. He's very conscientious of his athletic career. He started training at eight years of age. He's been an athlete for 31 years. He's good. He feels that what you've seen up till now has been, as you all know, is learning martial arts, is becoming a better martial artist. He was just in his infancy in the sport. Now he's going to come with a little more aggression. Like Hispanics say, we're a little bit of 'sazon', which is spiciness."
The suspension being over combined with the administrative nature of it - not being for a serious anti-doping violation - has pushed Romero out of his normal comfort zone. Usually in Spanish and in a demure way, this time the ATT middleweight was animated and insistent that what he's earned must be given to him.
"My family taught me something. I don't ask. What's yours, you do not ask for," Romero argued. "Give me a chance for the title. Give me the title," he continued. "I'm going to get what is mine."
Romero not only believes the obstacles to success have been removed, but that the case for him to get the title shot based on accomplishment in the cage is enough, too. The Olympic silver medalist noted he's undefeated during his UFC tenure, something no other fighter can claim.
"He hasn't lost anything," Romero's translator said. "He is the no. 1 contender. No one at middleweight, in his weight class, no one in the top ten is 7-0. No one is without a loss. There's only one that has no losses and that's Yoel Romero. He's the no. 1 contender for the title, the one that everyone has tried to turn their back on or avoid as much as possible.
"Every time the UFC has put a fight in front of him, there's always been an excuse, an avoidance. 'I have a broken wrist, I have a hurt knee, I have a cold, I have a hurt jaw, I have a tooth that's aching'."
While nothing's definitive, Romero said some discussion of him fighting middleweight champion Michael Bisping has been discussed. What Romero wants, however, is for Bisping to know he's aware of the criticisms Bisping has lobbed at him. He also claimed whatever reasons Bisping had for turning down the fight are no longer relevant.
"Hello, Mike! Now is the time. You have the belt. I go for you. I go for you, Mike," he said. "You say you don't want to fight with somebody that [doesn't] speak English? Now, I speak English. And now I learn the English. See you soon, bro. See you soon."
As for the Dan Hendersons or Georges St-Pierres of the world who want to jump the line to get a title shot? Romero isn't hateful towards them, but doesn't believe they can reasonably claim to be ahead of him.
"I have respect for everybody. Dan Henderson is a legend for the sport. GSP, I have good respect for you, too," he noted. "It is what it is. Dan Henderson is the no. 12. GSP is at 170. He's two years out. Jacare, he lose with me. He lose the chance. When Mike Bisping took the opportunity, he lose the chance. Now, the ready man who need to go for the title is me and I come back. Now the chance is mine. It's my chance because I take it. Nobody give me. I take it."
Despite claiming with certainty he had to be next to get a title shot, he also knows he has to overcome perceptions about him. For his part, Romero argued he hasn't used steroids and that, if anything, he's had to struggle for everything he's ever had. He can't cheat, he said, because it's not who he is.
"He's been brought up with the mindset of whoever trains the most, whoever trains the hardest, whoever does it correctly is who's going to win. There's never been a cheating aspect brought into his methodology, into his training," Romero's translator said.
"He's been brought up in a sense of training where he's had to go and take it and get it. When he grew up training without shoes," he explained, "whatever he had, he had to go and earn it. Training without food, without water. Once he was already a grown man and making it in the sport, he broke his cervical. They told him, 'It's over. Your life is done. It's over.' And then he said to everyone, 'No. No one can tell me. I'm the one that makes the decision if it is over or if it's not over.' And if it really can't continue, I want to die trying. I live every single day like that. Living, knowing that I can die trying."
Romero also had strong words for the supplement company that he claimed put him in this predicament in the first place. While he didn't mention the company by name, he did argue there are too many people and organizations taking short cuts. That, he said, is why people think he's cut corners. There's not enough courage and effort in the world for people to understand there's a right way to do things and many who take that path.
"This world is always working against a sense of honor, cleanliness, integrity. You have these supplement companies that, yeah, they're selling you a product, but it's not just for him. He's just one buyer, one purchase or one customer. But they sell to the rest of the world. They pretend that it's a clean supplement, a clean substance, but they want to see everyone else achieve results way faster, so they continue to purchase said supplement. They have no morals in hurting an athlete's career," Romero said via translator.
"Nowadays, everyone wants it easy," he explained. "No one wants to work for what they have, to achieve a goal. No one wants to step outside of the house and go for a long run and sweat. Everybody wants to run inside the house, the treadmill. They want to trim up a little excess body fat, but they don't want to diet and train. Go straight to the lypo and whatever else they do. The easy way out."