Romero in 2008
|Born||Yoel Romero Palacio|
April 30, 1977
Pinar del Río, Cuba
|Other names||Soldier of God(Former)/ Statue of God(Present)|
|Residence||Miami, Florida, U.S|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Weight||185 lb (84 kg; 13.2 st)|
|Reach||73 1⁄2 in (187 cm)|
|Fighting out of||Coconut Creek, Florida, U.S.|
|Team||American Top Team|
|Wrestling||Olympic Freestyle Wrestling|
|Years active||2009–present (MMA)|
|Mixed martial arts record|
|Notable relatives||Yoan Pablo Hernández (brother)|
|Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog|
Yoel Romero Palacio (born April 30, 1977) is a Cuban mixed martial artist and former freestyle wrestler. He is currently signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, competing in the Middleweight division. As a freestyle wrestler, Romero is a former world gold medalist and an Olympic silver medalist. He won six world and Olympic medals in total. As of March 9, 2020, he is #4 in the UFC middleweight rankings.
Despite having never become champion, Romero's credentials as an olympic wrestler and abilities inside the UFC have earned him several comparisons to the greats of the sport. He has several notable victories against former world champions, as well his rivalry with former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. Due to both his explosiveness and power, he is widely regarded as one of most athletic fighters to ever grace the octagon.
Romero started training in wrestling in the 1990s, and eventually representing Cuba at senior level in the FILA Wrestling World Championships, which is held in non-Olympic years, from 1997–2005. At the 1999 World Wrestling Championships Romero became world champion by defeating the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, Khadzhimurad Magomedov of Russia. He controversially missed out on becoming world champion again in 2002. After landing a three-point throw against Adam Saitiev to take a 3–2 lead, Romero was penalized a point for passivity with 20 seconds remaining. In overtime, after a scramble which saw Romero end on top, it was judged Saitiev had scored in the interim.
Romero competed in both the 2000 Summer Olympics and the 2004 Summer Olympics, representing his home nation of Cuba. He won the silver medal in the 2000 freestyle competition, losing to Adam Saitiev in the finals. He finished in fourth place in 2004. While competing in freestyle wrestling, Romero has defeated three different Olympic gold medal winners, and five different world champions. Among them were Americans Cael Sanderson and Les Gutches, both of whom Romero has multiple victories over.
Romero medaled in five total world championships, only missing out with his fifth-place finish in 1997, and sixth-place finish in 2003, when he was battling injuries. Other notable achievements include a gold medal at the 2003 Pan American Games, a quadrennial competition held the year before the Olympics, as well as multiple medal-winning finishes at the FILA Wrestling World Cup. Romero competed infrequently after 2005: he was suspended for all of 2006 by the Cuban Wrestling Federation for allegedly throwing his match against Mindorashvili at the 2005 World Championships. After winning the Grand Prix of Germany in the summer of 2007, he did not return to Cuba, choosing instead to remain in Germany.
Romero then joined the Ringer-Bundesliga, a professional wrestling league in Germany, in which teams compete for team titles. Romero competed as a starting member of SV Johannis Nuremberg, as well as helping coach and train the team. Eventually he began to transition into MMA.
Mixed martial arts career
After defecting to Germany in 2007, Romero made his professional mixed martial arts debut in December 2009. Between 2008 and 2011 Romero was trained by Sergej Kuftin (combat sambo & MMA coach) and Zike Simic (kickboxing coach), both from Peter Althof's "Martial Arts Gym Nuremberg". Over the next three years, he amassed an undefeated record of 5–0 in various promotions throughout Germany and Poland.
He won his debut via TKO against Sascha Weinpolter. In his second bout he scored a 62-second finish via TKO against Ricky Pulu. He then took on Polish standout Michał Fijałka in his third bout. After a dominant performance, Yoel won in the third round via TKO, which was at first ruled a controversial disqualification, due to a knee on the ground thrown by Romero. In 2011, he won his next three fights via TKO in the first round.
Romero signed with Strikeforce in July 2011 and made his promotional debut against Rafael Cavalcante on September 10, 2011 at Strikeforce 36. He lost the fight via KO in the second round. A neck injury kept him out of action until 2013.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Romero made his UFC and middleweight debut against Clifford Starks on April 20, 2013, at UFC on Fox 7. He won the fight via KO in the first round. The win also earned him Knockout of the Night honors. Romero was expected to face Derek Brunson on August 31, 2013, at UFC 164. However, Brunson suffered an injury and pulled out of the bout. Promotional newcomer Brian Houston was briefly linked as a replacement, however Houston was not medically cleared to compete at the event and the bout was canceled. In his second UFC bout, Romero faced Ronny Markes on November 6, 2013, at UFC Fight Night 31. He won the fight via knockout in the third round.
For his third fight, Romero was again set to face Derek Brunson on January 15, 2014, at UFC Fight Night 35. After trailing for two rounds, Romero won the fight in the third via TKO due to punches that dropped Brunson and subsequent elbows to the body. Both fighters earned a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus award. In his fourth fight, Romero faced Brad Tavares at UFC on Fox 11. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Romero faced Tim Kennedy on September 27, 2014, at UFC 178. He won the fight via TKO in the third round, giving Kennedy his first stoppage loss in thirteen years. This fight generated much controversy: Romero was hurt badly at the end of round 2, and received extra time to recover between rounds. UFC color commentator Joe Rogan mistakenly blamed this on Romero's cornermen for failing to leave the Octagon on time, when the blame was actually on a UFC Cutman who applied too much Vaseline to a cut and referee John McCarthy for allowing Romero to stay sitting while trying to get the cutman to return to the octagon to wipe the excess off. Later it was also noticed that Kennedy was illegally holding Romero's glove while striking him at end of round 2. The win earned Romero his second Fight of the Night bonus award.
Romero was expected to face Ronaldo Souza on February 28, 2015, at UFC 184. However, Souza pulled out of the fight on January 15, 2015, due to pneumonia. The bout was rescheduled  for April 18, 2015, at UFC on Fox 15. However, Romero was forced out of the fight by a ligament and meniscus tear in his knee. He was replaced by Chris Camozzi.
Romero faced former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida on June 27, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 70. He knocked out Machida at 1:38 of the third round with a series of elbows from top position. Romero was awarded a "Performance of the Night" bonus.
The bout with Ronaldo Souza was scheduled for a third time, eventually taking place on December 12, 2015, at UFC 194. Romero won the fight via split decision. 2 of 17 media outlets scored the bout in favor of Romero.
Romero faced former middleweight champion Chris Weidman on November 12, 2016, at UFC 205. He won the fight via knockout in the third round and was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus.
With middleweight champion Michael Bisping sidelined due to injury, Romero fought Robert Whittaker on July 8, 2017 at UFC 213 for the interim UFC Middleweight Championship. He lost the fight by unanimous decision.
Romero was scheduled to face David Branch on February 24, 2018 at UFC on Fox 28. However, on January 13, 2018, it was reported that Whittaker had pulled out of his bout against Luke Rockhold, which was scheduled to take place at UFC 221, due to an undisclosed injury. It was announced he would be replaced by Romero in what was to be a fight for the interim UFC Middleweight Championship. The winner of this bout would then face Whittaker in a unification bout. At the weigh-ins, Romero came in at 188.3 lbs in his first attempt. He was given another two hours to make 185 lbs but failed to make weight, ending up 2.7 pounds over the middleweight limit of 185 lbs. As a result, Romero would not have been eligible for the interim championship had he won the fight. Romero was fined 30% of his purse, which was awarded to Rockhold. If Rockhold were to win, he would still be awarded the championship. Romero won the fight via KO in the third round. Romero knocked Rockhold down with a heavy overhand followed up with a punch on the ground that rendered Rockhold unconscious.
A rematch with Whittaker took place on June 9, 2018 at UFC 225. At the weight-ins, Romero missed weight, coming in at 186 pounds, 1 pound over the middleweight limit for a title fight. Romero was given additional time to make weight but was pulled by the commission, weighing in at 185.2 lbs, 0.2 pounds over. Romero was fined 20% of his fight purse and the fight proceeded as a non-title catchweight bout. Romero lost the back-and-forth fight by split decision. The fight was awarded as Fight of the Night, but due to Romero missing weight, Whittaker received both $50,000 bonuses for a total of $100,000.
Romero was scheduled to face Paulo Costa on November 3, 2018 at UFC 230. However, Romero indicated in mid-August that while he has been cleared to fight, his doctors have recommended that he wait another four to five months (early 2019) to allow facial injuries incurred during his most recent fight to fully heal.
Romero was scheduled to face Ronaldo Souza on April 27, 2019 at UFC on ESPN+ 8. However, it was reported that Romero pulled out of the bout in early in April 2019 due to illness and was replaced by Jack Hermansson.
Tainted supplements lawsuit
Romero was informed of a potential doping violation stemming from an out-of-competition test conducted by USADA on January 13, 2016 after his bout with Ronaldo Souza on December 12, 2015, at UFC 194  where Romero won the fight via split decision. On February 8, Romero and his manager explained that he had taken a supplement after his fight that turned out to be contaminated. His team and USADA both sent out the supplement for testing and it was confirmed that it contained a banned substance. That substance was not listed on the label, his manager said. They did not want to reveal the name of the supplement or the substance as USADA was investigating the issue. On March 23, it was announced that Romero would appeal his suspension. His team and USADA discussed a deal for a nine-month suspension for the fighter, but Romero preferred to go to arbitration. The typical USADA anti-doping violation suspension is two years. Eventually, on April 4, both parties reached an agreement for a six-month suspension. USADA revealed that Romero had tested positive for ibutamoren, a growth hormone release stimulator. An unopened version of the supplement was independently tested and the banned substance did indeed come up, even though it was not listed on the label. The result of the Souza fight was not overturned, as it was an out-of-competition test that occurred after the fight; Romero passed both his pre-fight and fight night tests for the Souza fight.
Romero pursued legal action against the supplement company, but they never interposed an answer. After being awarded default judgment, Romero was awarded $27 million in damages: $3 million for lost wages, $3 million for reputable harm, and $3 million for emotional damage, all of which were tripled as allowed by the New Jersey “Consumer Fraud Act” when a company is “found out to have committed consumer fraud”.
Championships and accomplishments
Mixed martial arts
- Ultimate Fighting Championship
- MMA DNA.nl
- 2018 Fight of the Year.
Mixed martial arts record
|Professional record breakdown|
|18 matches||13 wins||5 losses|
|Loss||13–5||Israel Adesanya||Decision (unanimous)||UFC 248||March 7, 2020||5||5:00||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States||For the UFC Middleweight Championship.|
|Loss||13–4||Paulo Costa||Decision (unanimous)||UFC 241||August 17, 2019||3||5:00||Anaheim, California, United States||Fight of the Night.|
|Loss||13–3||Robert Whittaker||Decision (split)||UFC 225||June 9, 2018||5||5:00||Chicago, Illinois, United States||Non-title bout; Romero missed weight (185.2 lbs). Fight of the Night.|
|Win||13–2||Luke Rockhold||KO (punches)||UFC 221||February 11, 2018||3||1:48||Perth, Australia||Originally for the interim UFC Middleweight Championship; Romero missed weight (187.7 lbs) and became ineligible for the title.|
|Loss||12–2||Robert Whittaker||Decision (unanimous)||UFC 213||July 8, 2017||5||5:00||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States||For the interim UFC Middleweight Championship. Fight of the Night.|
|Win||12–1||Chris Weidman||KO (flying knee and punches)||UFC 205||November 12, 2016||3||0:24||New York City, New York, United States||Performance of the Night.|
|Win||11–1||Ronaldo Souza||Decision (split)||UFC 194||December 12, 2015||3||5:00||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Win||10–1||Lyoto Machida||KO (elbows)||UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Romero||June 27, 2015||3||1:38||Hollywood, Florida, United States||Performance of the Night.|
|Win||9–1||Tim Kennedy||TKO (punches)||UFC 178||September 27, 2014||3||0:58||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States||Fight of the Night.|
|Win||8–1||Brad Tavares||Decision (unanimous)||UFC on Fox: Werdum vs. Browne||April 19, 2014||3||5:00||Orlando, Florida, United States|
|Win||7–1||Derek Brunson||TKO (punches and body elbows)||UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou||January 15, 2014||3||3:23||Duluth, Georgia, United States||Fight of the Night.|
|Win||6–1||Ronny Markes||KO (punches)||UFC: Fight for the Troops 3||November 6, 2013||3||1:39||Fort Campbell, Kentucky, United States|
|Win||5–1||Clifford Starks||KO (flying knee and punches)||UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez||April 20, 2013||1||1:32||San Jose, California, United States||Middleweight debut. Knockout of the Night.|
|Loss||4–1||Rafael Cavalcante||KO (punches)||Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov||September 10, 2011||2||4:51||Cincinnati, Ohio, United States|
|Win||4–0||Laszlo Eck||KO (punch)||Fight of the Night 2011||May 27, 2011||1||0:33||Greding, Germany|
|Win||3–0||Ņikita Petrovs||TKO (retirement)||SFC 3: MMA Fight Night||March 5, 2011||1||2:58||Giessen, Germany|
|Win||2–0||Michał Fijałka||TKO (retirement)||IFF: The Eternal Struggle||October 8, 2010||3||4:05||Dąbrowa Górnicza, Poland|
|Win||1–0||Sascha Weinpolter||TKO (punches)||Fight of the Night 2009||December 20, 2009||1||0:48||Nuremberg, Germany||Light Heavyweight debut.|
|World Championships & Olympic Games Matches|
|2005 UWW world at 84kg|
|Loss||34–11||Revaz Mindorashvili||0–1, 1–1, 0–5||September 26, 2005||2005 World Wrestling Championships||Budapest, Hungary|
|Win||34–10||Taras Danko||3–1, 1–0|
|Win||33–10||Soslan Gattsiev||1–0, 2–0|
|Win||32–10||Radosław Horbik||1–0, 2–0|
|Win||31–10||Abraham Vasallo||4–0, 3–0|
|2004 Olympic 4th at 84kg|
|Loss||30–10||Sazhid Sazhidov||3–5||August 26, 2004||2004 Summer Olympics||Athens, Greece|
|Win||28–8||Jeffrey Cobb||Tech. Fall|
|2003 UWW world 6th at 84kg|
|Loss||27–8||Sazhid Sazhidov||0–3||September 12, 2003||2003 World Wrestling Championships||New York, New York|
|2002 UWW world at 84kg|
|Loss||25–6||Adam Saitiev||3–4||September 5, 2002||2002 World Wrestling Championships||Tehran, Iran|
|2001 UWW world at 85kg|
|Win||21–5||Beibulat Musaev||3–0||November 22, 2001||2001 World Wrestling Championships||Sofia, Bulgaria|
|2000 Olympic at 85kg|
|Loss||17–4||Adam Saitiev||Fall||September 28, 2000||2000 Summer Olympics||Sydney, Australia|
|Win||17–3||Amir Reza Khadem||3–0|
|1999 UWW world at 85kg|
|Win||13–3||Khadzhimurad Magomedov||4–2||October 7, 1999||1999 World Wrestling Championships||Ankara, Turkey|
|1998 UWW world at 85kg|
|Win||7–3||Khadzhimurad Magomedov||3–2||September 7, 1998||1998 World Wrestling Championships||Tehran, Iran|
|1997 UWW world 5th at 85kg|
|Win||3–2||Mogamed Ibragimov||Inj. Def.||August 29, 1997||1997 World Wrestling Championships||Krasnojarsk, Russia|
Romero describes himself as a Christian and "a man of God" whose hero is Jesus Christ. His younger brother, Yoan Pablo Hernández, was the IBF Cruiserweight Champion in professional boxing.
Romero and his wife have two daughters. He also has a son who he has not seen in person since he left Cuba.
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- "UFC Fight Night Results: 'Machida vs. Romero' Play-by-Play & Updates". Sherdog.com. 27 June 2015. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
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