Yoel Romero Palacio is a Cuban Mixed Martial Artist (MMA) who presently competes in the Middleweight competition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In the beginning of his career, he used to fight as a freestyle wrestler and has been a World Champion and an Olympic silver medallist for his home country, Cuba. As a freestyle wrestler, Yoel has managed to defeat several world champions and Olympic gold medallists and was constantly counted among the best wrestlers. At the Pan American games in 2003, he struck gold medal but at the Olympics next year, where he could only manage to get a hold of fourth place in freestyle wrestling. Starting 2009, his MMA career has grown rapidly. The biggest MMA tournament in the world, UFC, signed him on and Yoel made his debut in the ring in April 2013. Ever since he has entered UFC, he has been unstoppable and received several honours such as Knockout of the Night, Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night, becoming in the process one of the most widely recognized MMA faces in the world.
Childhood & Early Life
Yoel Romero was born on 30th April 1977 in Pinar Del Rico, Cuba, in a family of fighters. However, no one from his family had made it big internationally but Yoel found himself in an environment where wrestling was a part of life. He practiced along with his brother, Pablo Hernandez, who is presently a well-known boxer, and prepared himself for the future in the wrestling.
Ever since he was a child, he loved fighting and working out in the gym, which attributed to his physique and considering the name and fame he could achieve as a wrestler, he tried for his national team and soon enough, he got the well deserved break to fight for the National Cuban team.
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Yoel Romero participated in the 2000 Olympics and grabbed a silver medal in the freestyle wrestling competition. But in the 2004 summer Olympics, he could only secure the fourth spot. As a freestyle fighter, he was a part of senior Cuban team for the FILA world championship, which takes place in the non-Olympic years and is considered as the biggest tournament for wrestling apart from the Olympics. He competed for Cuba in the tournament and defeated many former Olympic and world champions several times, and became the World Champion in 1999.
Romero won several medals in FILA tournaments and also managed to win a gold medal win in the 2003 Pan American Games, which served as a training platform for the Olympics. In 2006, he was suspended by the Cuban Wrestling Federation for allegedly throwing a World Championship match.
Once he made comeback in 2007, after winning a tournament in Germany he didn’t return to Cuba and made up his mind to stay in Germany to find further opportunities, which he got in form of Ringer-Bundesliga. He performed duties as a coach and trainer and after getting enough of it, he started prepping up for a career in Mixed Martial Arts, which seemed more suitable to his style of wrestling, and was more lucrative.
Mixed Martial Arts Career
Receiving training from Sergej Kuftin and Zike Simic in Germany served Romero pretty well and when he made his MMA debut in the ring on December 2009, he defeated his opponent Sascha Weinpolter with a smashing knockout. With this clean victory, he proclaimed his grand arrival in MMA and during the period of three years after that, he held an undefeated record of 5-0 in several other promotions in Poland and Germany.
At Strikeforce promotion in July 2011, Yoel injured his neck, which kept him away from action for some time and he came back with the biggest MMA promotion - the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Fighting as a middleweight, Yoel Romero made his UFC debut on 20th April 2013 against Clifford Starks and won in the first round itself, knocking out his opponent to adorn the title ‘Knockout of the Night’ and in the second UFC bout of his career in November, he knocked out his opponent in the third round.
His next two fights were successes where he defeated Derek Brunson in January 2014 via a brutal knock out in the third round and in his fourth fight against Brad Tavares, he won by the unanimous decision. In his bout against Derek, the match was so intense that both the fighters shared the ‘Fight of the Night’ honour.
His next fight was embroiled in a controversy as after the second round in the match against Tim Kennedy, Yoel was hurt very badly and was given some extra time to recover, which raised some eyebrows, and in the third round, he knocked out his opponent to secure a win. This was the first loss for Kennedy in 13 years and both the fighters received ‘Fight of the Night’ honour at the end of the night.
Yoel’s streak continued with a match against Lyoto Machida in June 2015, where Yoel won with a TKO in the third round and for his smashing performance, he went home with the ‘Performance of the Night’ award.
In January 2016, he was again caught in a big controversy, which threatened Romero’s career. He failed a drug test as his blood sample was found out to have a banned substance. The test was conducted by USADA. And after a legal fight, both parties agreed on a six months ban, which Yoel accepted.
Following a six month ban from fighting, Yoel entered the ring again in November 2016 and knocked his opponent Chris Weidman out in the third round and in the next fight in July 2017, he lost to Michael Bisping in an anonymous decision.
Yoel Romero is a Christian and an ardent believer in God and constantly gives all the credit of success to Jesus Christ.
His comments regarding gays in a post fight interview in 2015 met with a lot of controversy. Yoel cleared the air later and said that he is no one to question anyone’s sexual preference and that he considers every creation of god as equal.
Yoel currently stays in Miami and plans on bringing his wife and daughter along with his parents to the USA.