One of the most intimidating physical specimens in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Yoel Romero has become known for his incredible strength, imposing physique and otherworldly athleticism. Romero was a silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympics and has turned himself into a dangerous striker since arriving on the mixed martial arts scene. The 40-year-old has put himself in position to capture the interim middleweight championship when he meets Luke Rockhold in the UFC 221 main event this Saturday in Perth, Australia.
Ahead of Romero’s showdown with Rockhold, here are five things you might not know about one of MMA’s most terrifying fighters:
1. He cut his MMA teeth in Europe.
Romero’s amateur wrestling pedigree did not net him an instant opportunity with the UFC, as he started his mixed martial arts career on the ground floor. Forced to earn his stripes in Europe before coming to North America, three of his first four bouts were contested in Germany, the other in Poland. Not surprisingly, Romero went 4-0 with four finishes before signed with Strikeforce ahead of his United States debut in 2011.
2. Strikeforce was not kind to him.
Following his successful run on the European regional circuit, Romero struggled to impress in his promotional debut at Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” on Sept. 10, 2011. On a card that also featured Rockhold and fellow Olympian Daniel Cormier, the “Soldier of God” succumbed to second-round punches from Rafael Cavalcante. It was Romero’s one and only appearance in Strikeforce.
3. The light heavyweight division was once home.
Romero’s first five fights were contested at 205 pounds. Once he signed with the UFC, he relocated to the middleweight division and found the environment favorable. Romero’s move to 185 pounds has certainly paid off thus far.
4. He has picked up six performance bonuses in nine UFC appearances.
Romero’s explosive abilities made him an immediate star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, so it should come as no surprise that he has shown a penchant for earning extra money inside the Octagon. In fact, he has notched post-fight performance bonuses in 66 percent of his UFC outings, three of them for “Fight of the Night.” Expectations are already running high for a classic confrontation with Rockhold in Australia.
5. Tapouts have proven elusive.
Though he has a world-class wrestling background upon which to draw, Romero has mostly relied on his standup skills following his transition to MMA. In 14 career fights, he has yet to register a submission victory -- an odd statistic given his base. Romero attempts an average of 2.05 takedowns per 15 minutes, according to FightMetric, but his efforts have not yet resulted in tapouts.