On Saturday night, UFC 248 was well on its way to being the frontrunner for Event of the Year, until the main event bout middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero took place. Though the budding star Adesanya managed to retain his belt with a unanimous decision win, he and Romero put together an uneventful bout highlighted by long stretches of inactivity that soured the evening for fans. And UFC President Dana White believes there’s only one man to blame: the mercurial and ageless wonder, Romero.
Speaking at the post-fight press conference, White put the blame on Romero’s odd performance, saying that in hindsight, he wishes they had just waited for Paulo Costa to heal up instead of giving Romero another title shot.
“I’m shocked,” White said. “Romero knew this was his last opportunity at a world championship. I thought he was gonna come out like a bat out of hell, put tons of pressure on him, shoot takedowns, try to knock him out. He did literally none of that. If you’re Adesanya, he fought the smart fight. You stay on the outside, he chopped that leg apart, and he picked his punches and did what he did. Romero did a lot of moving around and acting like he was trying to fight but he never really did.
“Hindsight is 20/20. We probably shouldn’t have done that fight and we should have waited for Costa. Oh well, we did it.”
White has never been one to pull his punches when talking about lackluster main events and Romero’s performance certainly provided White with ample opportunity. To start the bout off, Romero literally came out to the center of the cage, put up a high guard, and stood motionless for two minutes while Adesanya bounced around, looking for an entry. As opposed to being a slow start, that became the story of the fight as Adesanya slowly took control with a steady output of leg kicks while Romero largely looked for opportunities to counter that never came. Instead what did come was a damaged leg, a unanimous decision loss to the middleweight champion, and the ire of his boss.
“Right from the bell he came out and just stood there with his hands up. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” White said. “I thought he was gonna come out like a madman.
“This was a terrible fight. If you look at the UFC as a whole for as long as we’ve been doing it, you can literally put in one hand sh*tty fights that we’ve done. It takes two to fight. If somebody goes out there and doesn’t want to engage and doesn’t want to fight, and you’re a guy like Adesanya, he’s got so much more on the line. This is the way that the guy’s acting. He’s gonna stay back and he’s gonna pick him apart the way that he did. That leg was destroyed. . . He’s not gonna have a pep in his step tonight. That leg is hurting.
“Adesanya did what he had to do in my opinion. Why run in there and go crazy against a guy that dangerous when that guy is not fighting at all?”
The loss most likely marks the end of Romero’s championship hopes inside the UFC. Though earlier this week, Romero said he intends to fight another 10 years, at 42 years old it’s hard to imagine him making it back for another title fight. Especially when his promoter is so upset with him.
“A path back to the title after that performance? You’re crazy even asking that question right now,” White concluded. “He looked terrible tonight. He looked terrible. He literally gave up an opportunity tonight. Maybe he comes back in his next fight and looks like Yoel Romero. But if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t expect him to fight another 10 years looking like that.”