Two weeks ago, Scott Coker decided to pass on the signing of former UFC title contender Yoel Romero. Here’s what Bellator’s CEO had to say at the time:
If you look at our roster, and how many fighters we have, how many fights we’re gonna do, there’s only so many TV spots. And we’ve kind of gotten away from signing the OGs that we used to sign back in the day. And that’s because guys like AJ (McKee) are coming up. Ilima (Lei Macfarlane) is developing into a main event fighter.
We’ve basically built from the bottom up, and we have a lot of great fighters that are on the roster that we built over the last four to five years, and we were kind of heading in a different direction.
About a day later, Romero had reportedly signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator. Coker never really gave a statement on what made him change his mind, until his recent interview with MMA Junkie.
“Yoel started with us in Strikeforce back in 2008. Part of me wanted to do it. Part of me didn’t want to do it,” Coker explained. “After we signed ‘Rumble’ (Johnson), we had the chance to (sign) Yoel. We passed on (him). I’ll tell you, honestly, the amount of support he got coming through our doors and through the social channels really was impressive. Everybody wanted to see the Yoel Romero vs. ‘Rumble’ Johnson fight. I huddled up with my team.
“I’ll tell you one thing in this situation people don’t really realize: Even if we said we were going to pass, we talk to these agents all the time – every day. Yoel’s name kept coming up and coming up. Finally, I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s just add him into the mix.’”
“The Soldier of God” was released from the UFC roster because of his recent string of losses and his age, according to company president Dana White. Coker, however, still sees a lot of value in having the 43-year-old veteran part of Bellator’s roster of fighters.
“He’s (such) an amazing talent. He still is somebody that is very dangerous,” Coker said of Romero. “He definitely can still fight. I said, ‘Let’s put him in the mix, and let’s just go for it.’ I’m glad we did. I had a little chat with him.
“It was great. He seems like such a nice guy and very mature. I’m looking forward to putting him into our 205-pound mix sometime next year.”
Romero will compete at 205 pounds under Bellator. As he confirmed in a recent interview, there’s a “90 percent chance” that he faces Anthony “Rumble” Johnson for his debut.
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