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Israel Adesanya fires back at Yoel Romero for lackluster performance: ‘I came to fight, he came to merengue’

Israel Adesanya won’t claim his performance at UFC 248 was the best of his career, but he also believes a big part of the blame for a lackluster fight falls on the shoulders of Yoel Romero.

In the aftermath of his title defense, the reigning UFC middleweight champion fired back at Romero’s claims that he was running for five straight rounds to avoid a fight with him. Instead, Adesanya quickly points to Romero’s own lack of activity, which started during the first round when the Cuban born fighter essentially stood in the center of the Octagon while refusing to engage for the first two minutes.

“It’s not the fight I wanted to have,” Adesanya said at the UFC 248 post-fight press conference. “I had a different vision for how this fight was going to end but it takes two to tango. I can’t force a guy to fight. I can force him to make mistakes, which I did a little bit by exposing his legs later on.

“But for me if a guy stands there for the first two minutes and just has his hands up, am I supposed to risk my belt and get clipped by him, which I did. That’s a bad move and I went back to what I do best, just pick people apart. But yeah that was really bizarre. I might as well have just used a training dummy at my gym as my sparring partner. It was just really bizarre cause I expected a little bit more.”

Adesanya admits that Romero did catch him flush with an overhand shot in the opening round, which caused him to make an adjustment to ensure that didn’t happen again.

“He punched me in the face. I was blinking a lot cause I could see two Yoel Romero’s,” Adesanya said. “Yeah, he cracked me with a good one but this is the guy that’s supposed to put everyone down. He hit me. My foot positioning was wrong in that stance that I was at and that situation I was in. I came down the middle rather than the outside and he cracked me with his best shot early on. I ate that.

“I’m not proud of my chin but I can take a shot. I just don’t like to brag about it cause it’s stupid but you see later on I read that left hand like it was nothing whenever it was coming at me. He did crack me and that was the best punch of his fight. That was it. That was his best shot of the fight.”

While Romero claimed he wanted to give the fans a war, Adesanya believes the 42-year-old contender actually had a very specific strategy in mind and it had nothing to do with putting on an exciting fight.

“I think one of his tactics is to try and bore you,” Adesanya explained. “He’s done it with a lot of guys. He’ll just stand there and bore you and then you’re just expecting something and then you lose concentration for half a second or a second and he catches you.

“That’s probably his only hope for this fight. That was really bizarre and it’s not my kind of fight but like I said check my resume. If you haven’t seen me fight before, check my resume and see how I really f*ck these dudes up.”

Adesanya’s best strikes ended up being a series of leg kicks that really started to land consistently during the second half of the fight.

A lot of the narrative going into UFC 248 was that Romero was somehow made out of steel and that past opponents who hit him actually hurt themselves more than inflicting damage. Adesanya scoffed at that notion after rattling his shin bone off Romero’s legs numerous times on Saturday night.

“Like flesh and bone and muscle. Really thick muscle. But nothing like steel,” Adesanya described when asked what it felt like kicking Romero. “You guys have all these metaphors. Have you ever actually kicked steel? It’s f*cking bullsh*t. That narrative with steel, put that to rest now.”

While Adesanya is willing to concede that it wasn’t the all out war some expected, he also can’t help but feel like a big part of the blame should be aimed at Romero instead.

“If I fought the way he fought, you guys would rip me to shreds as a shameful champion as [Paulo Costa] said,” Adesanya stated. “But the first round, he didn’t do anything. I wasn’t able to get off as much as I wanted to so I think from end of the second round, the third round, I started to use long attacks. I have long legs. So I could touch him and he can’t touch me. It’s not up to just me.

“I came to fight. He came to merengue.”

Considering how Romero was built up as the most feared middleweight on the roster and the reputation he carries around like a loaded weapon, Adesanya wasn’t impressed by anything he witnessed over the course of five rounds.

If anything, Adesanya’s admiration for Romero as a dangerous and worthy opponent faded away after their fight was finished.

“I definitely lost respect for him,” Adesanya said. “I definitely lost respect for what I thought was going to be a really difficult challenge to overcome. It would have been really nice to do what I wanted to do, which was finish him, and I had my game plans in mind. But he had other plans to just stand there and have his hands up.”

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