LAS VEGAS – At 42, Yoel Romero is the current poster child for aging fighters who continue to fight at the top.
Romero plans to do just that, and on Saturday, he’ll try to do something only Couture was able to do past 40 by winning a UFC belt.
”I want to prove there are no limits, that age is pretty much a number,” he told reporters at an open workout for his title fight against Israel Adesanya at UFC 248, which takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. “I think you can do anything if you believe in yourself. If you live a disciplined lifestyle, if you live a not so emotional life, (and) if you live under a conviction, everything is possible.”
Romero already has had three shots at UFC gold and come up short. Two of them, he was heavy on the scale and ruled ineligible to fight for the belt.
Those stumbles, as well as a razor-close decision loss to Paulo Costa in his previous outing, led to questions about why he deserved another title shot, even though Adesanya requested to fight him after Costa was sidelined due to injury.
For Romero, the answer is pretty simple.
”You’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t want to fight the best guys, so he wants to know if he’s the best,” he said. “He wants to fight the very, very best. When I used to wrestle, most people didn’t want to fight with me in wrestling. But there was always someone with the courage to face me, and I like that.”
There was no lack of respect for Romero when it came time to accept the fight with Adsanya. He brushed aside the idea of using his wrestling skills to grind out a victory that on paper looks like the easier path to victory.
”We know how he works on the floor,” he said. “You have to expect everything from a fighter.”
Even the totally unexpected, like a possible case of staph infection that raised concerns about Adesanya’s health, and the impact of the novel coronavirus aren’t a big worry for the big challenger.
”I’m more worried about my health,” Romero said. “Our team has been trying to be as clean as possible, cleansing everything, we’ve been taking vitamins, We’ve been doing everything separate, going to a different hotel, staying away from big crowds as much as possible. We’ve been improvising as much as we can.”
Romero does a lot of that in the octagon. The moment he looks to be running out of energy, he explodes into action and catches opponents off guard. Age hasn’t dulled his ability to turn momentum on its head in competitive fights.
There will be a moment when Romero might not be able to compete in the UFC any more. But he is fighting that moment every step of the way.
”Sport is life,” he said. “I love life. So I need to do the sport.”