Sherdog Prospect Watch: Anthony Romero

By Anthony Walker Nov 9, 2018
Lightweight prospect Anthony Romero has big plans. As he nears his fourth professional mixed martial arts bout, against Alex Wiggs at King of the Cage: In the Mix on Saturday, he intends on making another step toward his goals.

“I even wrote on my vision board that I’d get a pro title in 2018,” Romero told Sherdog.com. “My other goal was to be 4-0. I’m going to do at least one of them.” Romero’s plan to conquer the tough landscape of a brutal sport has thus far been executed without error. He has seen nothing but victory since turning pro and has quickly garnered attention on the iconic King of the Cage canvas while earning his 3-0 record. His professional debut and the success that has followed have all come in less than a calendar year.

Even though his winning ways have opened doors for the Ontario native, it’s the door that didn’t open that has Romero frustrated. After securing his first professional stoppage, a rear-naked choke of Elijah Harris in the closing moments of the final round, the 21-year-old was seeking a title shot. Immediately after the win, he took to the mic to declare his designs on the belt and its current holder, Blaze Gil. When he learned that his request was unfulfilled, “The Genius” had to take a step back and exercise some patience.

“I was disappointed,” Romero said. “I went to the promoters and told them I wanted the title fight. I was being a pain in the butt. I just kept asking them. The owner [KOTC founder Terry Trebilcock] told me he was working on it, so I got all excited and telling my family we were going to get the shot.”

Romero sees his quest for KOTC gold as a crucial part of his journey to make the roster of a major promotion. As one of the oldest and most-revered regional promotions in the sport, KOTC has long served as a springboard to MMA’s big leagues. Daniel Cormier, Urijah Faber and Rory MacDonald are just a few of the names that wore a championship belt for the company before embarking on careers that would earn top honors in the most elite levels of the sport.

“Once you get a title in the smaller organizations, you get more eyes on you,” Romero said. “It’s good on the MMA resume.”

First, he must deal with Wiggs. Despite his opponent’s 4-3 record, Romero knows it’s unwise to look past the man in front of him. Recognizing the danger in Sho’Nuff’s aggressive striking style and judo background, Romero has tailored his camp accordingly. Relying on his background in taekwondo and kickboxing, while fine tuning his wrestling with the team in his hometown Brock University, Romero feels that he is aptly prepared to face the challenges presented by an opponent with a deceptive record and knockouts under his belt.

“It doesn’t matter what the other person’s experience is, he always comes to bring the fight,” Romero said. “But I see holes in his game. I’ll show everybody the holes on Nov. 10.”

So until Trebilcock and company book Romero to challenge Gil, who Romero was told has been battling injuries since he won the belt in January, there will be at least one unfinished task on his 2018 vision board. Despite his disappointment, Romero seems content and open to the changes as an opportunity to continue growing as a fighter before exposing himself to the increased attention a title would bring.

Recognizing the higher stakes as a professional has led to an increased focus in training: businesslike sparring sessions between teammates as opposed to the friendly conversation that can be found in many schools. Students on the mat giving their undivided attention to the coaches’ instructions contrast against the chatter of less focused training partners.

“There’s no fooling around,” Romero said. “Everything is very serious. I know it’s a very big goal I want to achieve and anything that gets in my way is a problem.”

One of the things that got in the way was teaching boxing and kickboxing classes at his home gym, Para Bellum MMA. Feeling as though his obligations as an instructor took too much away from his own growth, Romero pulled back from his class schedule, opting to only give private lessons in order to reclaim his precious time. Fortunately, the recent college graduate has the full support of his parents saving him from some of the hardships of full adult responsibility while pursuing his career.

If all goes well on Saturday night, “The Genius” will enter 2019 with his perfect record intact and ready to conquer the challenges ahead. Even if Gil’s injury woes or KOTC’s plans don’t allow him to challenge for the lightweight belt, he is prepared to move on. After fulfilling his contractual duties for his current promotion, Romero has his eyes set on a spot for the upcoming season of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. Either way, he’s aiming upward.

“Once I have a goal, I will achieve it.”

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