When former two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger, Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson announced his plans to return to the Octagon early next year, fans began to question the possibility of a tilt opposite former middleweight title chaser, Yoel ‘Soldier of God’ Romero — with the latter constantly linked with a move to the 205-pound ranks.
In the last couple of weeks, those plans were put on the back burner almost indefinitely. Johnson had mutually agreed on his release from the UFC, before penning a multi-fight deal with Bellator. The following week, Romero surprisingly followed suit — parting ways with the Dana White led promotion, before eventually landing in Bellator also, on a multi-fight contract.
As part of Romero’s deal with the Scott Coker organization, the Cuban is expected to make his promotional bow in early 2021, with a return to the light heavyweight division earmarked for the first time since his final tilt under the now-defunct Strikeforce banner back in September 2011.
Romero, 43, spoke with ESPN MMA reporter, Ariel Helwani recently, off the back of his signature with Bellator, and remained coy when asked about his interest in a clash with Dublin, Georgia knockout ace, Johnson — but through his translator, detailed there’s a possibility — as high as “ninety percent” that he makes his first Bellator walk against him.
“You know, to throw a name out there right now, is pure speculation,” Romero said. “There’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes that I’m not supposed to speak about that I can’t say yet. But, there’s a huge possibility — ninety percent chance that he (Anthony Johnson) will be the first one to face Yoel Romero.“
Last featuring in the main event of UFC 248 in March, Pinar del Rio favourite, Romero dropped his third consecutive defeat — a forgettable title challenge against incumbent middleweight best, Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya.
Establishing a 9-4 promotional record during his almost seven-year stint with the UFC, Romero most famously knocked back four former world champions. Laying knockout waste to Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, and Lyoto Machida, all in spectacular fashion — Romero also nabbed a close split judging win over Jacare Souza in December 2015.
With his most recent professional outing coming at UFC 210 in April of 2017, renowned knockout-artist, Johnson dropped his second light heavyweight title challenge to Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier with a second-round rear-naked choke defeat.
The submission loss snapped a stunning three-fight rise for Johnson, who had made short-work of Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader, and Jimi Manuwa with knockouts.