Romero, the division’s No. 1 ranked contender, scored a highlight-reel knockout over former champion Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC 221, but was disqualified from winning the interim strap after missing weight by 2.7 pounds. Yet while Romero’s weigh-in blunder ultimately cost him a chance at interim gold — and the type of payday that comes with being a champion — it may not have cost him the next title shot against UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
“For us, it’s never good when fighters miss weight, so I think it sort of takes a bit away from the main event,” UFC executive David Shaw said Saturday at UFC 221’s post-fight press conference. “I’m glad that the main event fight continued, obviously. I thought the fight itself was pretty dynamic. The first round, they kind of sussed each other out, and Romero was pretty emphatic. I mean, that was a pretty decisive win.
“The weight situation, I don’t think that’s going to play into it (when it comes to a title shot),” Shaw continued. “I think we’ve got a few factors that are going to allow us for some time, and first and foremost, it’s that Rob can’t really fight for a few months, so there’s a bit of time to figure out what happens in the middleweight division.”
Romero was transported to the hospital following the fight and was unavailable to comment at UFC 221’s post-fight press conference. The 40-year-old Olympic medalist is believed to have injured his right shin during the contest, sources told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani. Romero performed his entire in-cage post-fight interview from his knees and had to be helped out of the cage by his cornermen.
Romero’s victory masked his injury well though. The Cuban veteran downed Rockhold with a left hand midway through the third round, then leveled him with a vicious uppercut that separated Rockhold from his consciousness.
With the win, Romero pushed his UFC record to a sterling 9-1, with his only loss coming in a narrow decision loss to Whittaker last July at UFC 213.
Whittaker’s timetable is still unknown. The native New Zealander was initially slated to defend his title against Rockhold in UFC 221’s main event, only to be forced out of the event due to a hellish series of injuries and illnesses. Whittaker said Monday on The MMA Hour that he is currently targeting a return sometime in the summer.
As for Whittaker’s next opponent, while Shaw suggested that Romero’s weigh-in miss would likely not play into Romero’s title shot chances, UFC president Dana White was far more declarative. When asked by ESPN whether Whittaker vs. Romero 2 was next in the promotion’s plans, White was blunt.