He may have lost three of his last four fights, but Yoel Romero is still angling for a UFC middleweight title shot.
By all rights, Paulo Costa earned a shot at current champion Israel Adesanya with a unanimous decision win over Romero at UFC 241 in August. That victory did make him the top contender, but Costa's manager has since said that his fighter had to have surgery on his biceps and that the ensuing rehabilitation will put him out of action until sometime around April 2020.
That is likely too long for the UFC to wait for Adesanya's first title defense, although it does present a sticky situation to navigate for an opponent.
Costa was the ideal challenger, coming off of victories over Uriah Hall and Romero en route to a spotless 13-0 record. With him temporarily out of the picture, the choice isn't so obvious.
Adesanya would like to fight Romero and Romero would like to fight Adesanya, but having lost three out of four bouts, including his last two, doesn't make for the most presentable championship challenger.
There is, of course, the prospect of an immediate rematch with Robert Whittaker, but Adesanya won the belt by knocking him out in the second round.
The logical sporting choice would be Jared Cannonier, who is 3-0 since dropping to the UFC middleweight division in 2018. He has knocked out David Branch, Anderson Silva, and Jack Hermansson, the longest of those fights going 39 seconds into the second round.
Yoel Romero justifies why he should fight Israel Adesanya next
Thus far, UFC president Dana White hasn't been on board, but Romero insists he is still the best choice to challenge Adesanya.
“I want this fight to happen because many people talk, ‘Who is the true (champion)? Who is the real champion of middleweight?’ And the people know who it is because everybody has seen what happened the last three fights before. Now Israel has the belt, the people want to see who is the real champion,” Romero said on Monday's edition of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on ESPN.
“The people see that I am losing three fight. Yes, I’m losing three fight. But when you ask them, inside their soul, ‘Did Yoel Romero lose?’ Yoel Romero did not lose. Yoel Romero is still the winner. Now you see what happened, the people want to see the really best people fight. Who is the best middleweight right now?"
Romero insinuated that if anyone has defeated him in the Octagon it has been the judges, as all three of his UFC defeats went to the scorecards. And that is why he believes he should still be considered as the next opponent for Adesanya.
"The day when I lose, I say I lose. The day when I lose in the Olympic game, I lose. Everybody ask me, ‘You’re a loser?’ Yes, I lose it. Somebody beat me. But right now, nobody beat me in the UFC."
Yoel Romero discusses his desire to fight UFC champion Israel Adesanya
(Courtesy of ESPN MMA)