There was supposed to be more clarity in the UFC middleweight division after UFC 221. But following Saturday’s pay-per-view event, the UFC’s first card in Perth, Australia, the middleweight division is once again a mess. That’s because Yoel Romero knocked out Luke Rockhold in the main event. The problem? Romero missed weight. “The Soldier of God” was therefore ineligible to win the interim belt. As impressive as the performance was, it’s hard to reward someone with a title fight after missing weight, even considering Romero took the fight on relatively short notice.
According to the UFC’s David Shaw, it’s still possible Romero could get the title shot when UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker returns later this year from injury. After all, Whittaker won the interim title from Romero last summer at UFC 213 in a closely-contested, back-and-forth fight. A rematch wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. With Whittaker still out of action, Shaw says the UFC still has time to figure out what the company wants to do. But when it comes down to it, Romero missed weight and as impressive as the performance was against Rockhold, it’s difficult to reward him for coming in at 187.7lbs, 2.7lbs above the 185lbs middleweight title fight limit.
Sure, Romero has already been punished by having 30% of his purse taken away and given to Rockhold, plus he was ineligible for the $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus. And he didn’t get the interim title, nor the Reebok pay bump for a title challenger. But even considering all of that, it still sends a really bad message to the rest of the roster when a fighter can miss weight and still earn a title shot.
The problem is, Romero is the only clear-cut contender for Whittaker’s belt at the moment. When you look at the other top contenders for the title, you have the former champion Michael Bisping, who has just lost two-straight fights and is on the verge of retirement; Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who Whittaker knocked out on his way to the belt; Chris Weidman, who is 1-3 in his last four fights; Kelvin Gastelum, who lost to Weidman before he knocked out Bisping; and Georges St-Pierre, who gave up the middleweight belt just days after finishing Bisping at UFC 213.
The middleweight division was supposed to have more clarity once GSP gave up the title and the UFC elevated Whittaker to the undisputed champion, but things are even messier now. Part of the blame lies on Whittaker pulling out of the Rockhold fight at UFC 221, because if he was healthy Romero wouldn’t have even been part of this discussion, as Romero was supposed to fight David Branch at UFC Orlando. But injuries are part of the sport and Whittaker got injured. It happens, and hopefully Whittaker will be healthy and return soon. There’s no doubt though that the re-shuffling of UFC 221 has led to a very messy situation at the top of the middleweight division.
Romero is an incredible fighter and his 9-2 record with eight finishes in the UFC is remarkable. It’s hard to believe such an explosive, powerful, and fast athlete is 40 years old. He also did the UFC a solid by taking the fight with Rockhold on a month’s notice, which has to be considered. But he missed weight, and even though middleweight is lacking legitimate title contenders at the moment, it’s very hard to reward a fighter for missing weight by giving them a title shot. Knowing the UFC, odds are Romero’s weight miss will be swept under the rug. All the UFC has to do is show the replay of him knocking out Rockhold to get fans interested. But this is a sport, and part of the sport is making weight.
As good as Romero is, it’s not fair to reward him with a title shot. The problem is no one else stands out as the next contender in line. And from the looks of it, that may prove to be a very good thing for Romero, as despite not winning the interim belt at UFC 221, it’s looking more and more likely he’ll get his rematch with Whittaker. Let’s just hope if that happens he makes weight.