Most mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters begin their careers at a young age. Yoel Romero, meanwhile, didn’t have his pro debut until he was 31 years old. He is now 40 and looks better physically than most fighters 10 years younger than him and can still compete at the highest level.
Still, underneath it all, “Soldier of God” is hurting, as three decades of non-stop training and competing in sports has taken a toll on his body. During a recent interview on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Romero talked about a potential cut off date for his MMA career, hinting at the possibility of calling it a day should he defeat Robert Whittaker at UFC 225 on June 9, 2018.
“Joe, when you have discipline, you train every single day. And when you train every day, one day you wake up and you say, ‘God, everything hurts.’ Even my toenails hurt. So you’re training everyday, you’re disciplined, you’re hurting, but you have a commitment. So I ask myself, ‘How long will I be committed to this?’ After I win the title, then ask me that again. Because I am sore, I’m tired. Training hurts, When you train for real it hurts. I have been doing this for 32 years.”
Of course, should Yoel win the strap, the allure of being a defending champion and collecting all the benefits that come with it could very well be the motivation he needs to stick a round a bit longer.
Despite getting a late start in MMA, Romero spent 15 years training and living at the Cuban Olypmic Center. Prior to that, he spent numerous years training at a Cuban sports center which housed all the top athletes in every sport for the country. Working primarily on his wrestling skills, ”Soldier of God” worked his way up to the Cuban National wrestling team thanks to a strict regimen, taking home silver at the 2000 Olympic games.
One can only imagine what kind of record he could’ve accumulated, what kind of carnage he would have left behind had Romero started competing inside the Octagon during his younger years. But, “what could've been” is all for naught, as Romero has still managed to accumulate an impressive 9-1 record with UFC despite not getting a deal with the promotion until he was 35 years of age.
He can reach the pinnacle of the sport and his combat sports’ accomplishments if he can defeat Whittaker -- whom he lost to at UFC 213 — when they run it back this summer in Chicago, Illinois. And if he decides to call it a day, walking away as champion wouldn’t be a bad way to go out.