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Yoel Romero focused on Melvin Manhoef and 205-pound belt, but eyes middleweight return: ‘I’m the best in the world at 185’

Yoel Romero
Bellator / Lucas Noonan

Yoel Romero has aspirations to not just be the Bellator light heavyweight champion but also to capture the middleweight title.

Before any of those things can be accomplished, Romero returns to action on Friday against Melvin Manhoef in the co-main event of Bellator Dublin. After dropping his promotional debut to Phil Davis at Bellator 266, Romero got back to form with a dominant performance against Alex Polizzi at May’s Bellator 280 event, where he finished his opponent with a jaw-breaking flurry at the 4:59 mark of the final round.

For the 45-year-old Romero, that was just the start of what he believes to be a historic run.

“My goals are to the champion at 185 and 205,” he told MMA Fighting. “That’s what’s in front of me and what I want to accomplish.

“I’m the best in the world at 185. I’m eager to come back to that division, and it’s my first love. It’s a division where everything started, so how could I not want to fight in that division? But at the same time, the focus has to be on Melvin. I need to take care of business at 205, and when the time comes to go back to 185, I’ll be more than happy to do so.”

Not only was Romero’s win against Polizzi his first in Bellator, but his first since stopping Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 in February 2018, a performance that snapped a career-long four-fight skid. The win wasn’t just redemption, but he also felt he owed the fans that have supported him.

“I feel like what I did in Paris was pay off an outstanding debt that I had with the fans after the Davis fight, and I felt like I had a lot more to give,” Romero said. “In the end, in Paris, it was important to redeem myself in that way.”

Romero couldn’t savor his win for long, though, as the fight with Manhoef was announced almost immediately afterward. Manhoef’s fight with the multi-time UFC title challenger could be the final one of his long and storied combat sports career.

In Romero’s eyes, he will have no remorse or regret should he send Manhoef into retirement with a loss.

“I don’t concern myself with what could, or could not happen, or the what-if’s,” Romero explained. “If I go to a restaurant, and there’s a plate in front of me, I’m going to eat it. That’s the long and short of it.

“It is what it is. If I end up retiring him, it happens. All I care about is going up into bigger and better objectives, keep coming up those stairs into the goals that I want. Whatever happens to him, it happens.”

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