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Morning Report: Scott Coker explains change of heart and signing Yoel Romero to Bellator

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Earlier this month, the UFC caught the MMA world by surprise when it released former three-time UFC middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero from his contract with the organization. Though Romero has had a rough run of late, his last bout was a razor thin loss to current champion Israel Adesanya and Romero was still ranked in the top-five of the division. Given Romero’s status as an elite middleweight, many assumed that Bellator would quickly snap him up, but in another surprising turn of events, Bellator CEO Scott Coker publicly stated that they weren’t interested in “The Soldier of God” because they were focused on their current roster of talent. That didn’t last long though. Less than a week later, Romero signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator and is expected to make his debut for the organization early in 2021.

So what happened? How did Bellator go from not being interested in the former Olympic Silver Medalist to signing him in just a few days? Well, Scott Coker says the community changed his mind.

“Yoel started with us in Strikeforce back in 2008,” Coker told MMA Junkie. “Part of me wanted to do it. Part of me didn’t want to do it. After we signed (Anthony) ‘Rumble’ (Johnson), we had the chance to (sign) Yoel. We passed on (him). I’ll tell you, honestly, the amount of support he got coming through our doors and through the social channels really was impressive. Everybody wanted to see the Yoel Romero vs. ‘Rumble’ Johnson fight. I huddled up with my team.

“I’ll tell you one thing in this situation people don’t really realize: Even if we said we were going to pass, we talk to these agents all the time – every day. Yoel’s name kept coming up and coming up. Finally, I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s just add him into the mix.’”

Signing Yoel was certainly not a no-brainer for Coker. Romero is 43 years old , riding a three-fight losing streak, and coming off what is widely considered to be the worst fight of 2020. But despite all of that, Coker believes that Romero still has a lot left to offer the MMA world inside the cage.

“He’s (such) an amazing talent,” Coker said. “He still is somebody that is very dangerous. He definitely can still fight. I said, ‘Let’s put him in the mix, and let’s just go for it.’ I’m glad we did. I had a little chat with him. It was great. He seems like such a nice guy and very mature. I’m looking forward to putting him into our 205-pound mix sometime next year.”

Bellator is expecting Romero to primarily compete in their light heavyweight division, while Romero’s management team has indicated he’s interested in competing at middleweight and light heavyweight, and even heavyweight if the opportunity presents itself. First up though is likely to be a bout with fellow recent signee Anthony Johnson early in 2021, and the winner will almost certainly go on to challenge for the 205-pound title later in the year.


KOTY. Joaquin Buckley’s KO of Impa Kasanganay wins 2020 Knockout of the Year honors.

SOTY. A.J. McKee’s choke of Darrion Caldwell wins 2020 Submission of the Year honors.

BFTOY. Khamzat Chimaev wins 2020 Breakout Fighter of the Year honors.

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What the Heck.

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On to the Next One. Discussing the top-five fights we didn’t get to see in 2020.

Heavy Hands. Belatedly discussing the final UFC fight card of the year.



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It’s that time of the year.


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Manon Fiorot (5-1) vs. Victoria Leonardo (8-2); UFC Fight Night, Jan. 20.

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Devonte Smith (10-2) vs. Alex da Silva Coelho (21-3); UFC Fight Night, Feb. 6.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Yoel Romero
    (290 votes)
  • 62%
    Anthony Johnson
    (491 votes)
781 votes total Vote Now

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