As Robert Whittaker gets ready to fight Yoel Romero for the interim UFC middleweight title, he sounds confident in his ability to come out with a win, no matter what Yoel brings with him.
Michael Bisping’s shadow over the UFC middleweight division continues to grow. It’s not the sort of shadow Anderson Silva cast at the height of his glory, the foreboding doom that suggested anyone who climbed high enough to face him would be in for the beating of their career. Instead it’s the shadow of limbo. The knowledge that anyone who climbs high enough is going to have to wait months or tread water to keep their place.
That’s the reality that Yoel Romero has been living with for some time now, as the former Cuban Olympian earned his shot at the middleweight belt with a win over Chris Weidman at UFC 205. But, seven months later, he’s getting ready to fight off a new rising contender, Australia’s Robert Whittaker.
And while Romero has been on a tear of late, with KO wins in three of his last four bouts against the best that 185 has to offer, Whittaker sounds nothing less than confident that he’ll take Romero’s spot as the no. 1 contender in waiting. The Aussie sat down with Submission Radio for a video interview ahead of his interim title fight with Romero, planned for UFC 213 on July 8th.
“Probably,” Whittaker responded, when asked if he’d have fought Romero without the offer of an interim title. “Let’s be honest, I like fighting tough dudes, and more than the interim belt I’m excited to fight Yoel Romero. He’s been like number one contender since practically he got up there and I want to fight him.”
“I see myself matching up pretty well,” Whittaker continued. “Before he gets to me to do his wrestling he’s gotta get past my hands and feet, but he’s a tough dude in saying that. He’s very tough dude, he’s got a really tight skillset, and like you said, he’s been competing at the highest level for years. So it’s gonna be a really tough fight.”
But, being a ‘tough dude’ isn’t the only aspect to fighting Yoel Romero. Over the course of his UFC career, Romero has picked up something of a reputation for being a ‘dirty’ fighter. It’s not just a little extra time on the stool against Tim Kennedy, or a well timed cage grab against Jacare either. Romero failed a drug test back in January, and while he was only hit with a six-month suspension for a tainted supplement, for the 40-year-old who still possesses the body of a god it raised a few suspicions. Suspicions that Whittaker couldn’t seem to care less about.
“Nah, it’s like, whatever,” Whittaker laughed, when asked if he was troubled by Romero’s USADA test failure. “It is what it is. He can do whatever he wants. It’s not gonna help him.”
UFC 213 will cap off the promotion’s International Fight Week series of events. The card is expected to be headlined by a bantamweight title bout between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. Romero and Whittaker are slated for the co-main event.