It’s been about two weeks since Robert Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero via split decision in a memorable five-round battle bout at UFC 225, but he still has some questions regarding how the Cuban wrestler was able to recover so quickly from what appeared to be a grueling weight cut.
Romero, of course, missed weight by 0.2 pounds one day prior, and “The Soldier of God” had to be helped from weigh-ins by his team. Come fight night, however, Romero was as powerful and explosive as ever. He floored Whittaker in rounds three and five to nearly steal a victory that would have created a mess in the middleweight division considering the matchup was a non-title bout. Whittaker discussed Romero’s recovery and subsequent performance during a recent appearance on GrangeTV .
“Guys who are cutting weight and are missing weight, and they look like shriveled husks of themselves – you can’t get back in the Octagon 24 hours later and compete in your top form. I know this firsthand because I have done it. I use to do that when I was a welterweight fighter. I never go back into the Octagon at 100 percent; there’s water missing from my brain, from my body, causing me to take shots in bad ways. You just can’t do it,” Whittaker said.
“Whatever Romero’s rehydration program is, I would like to get on that,” he continued. “Because he was massive, from the skeleton I saw the day before, and him missing [weight] and looking like he was going to die, to him hopping back in that Octagon, it was like two different guys. And taking head shots like, I hit him a lot, and he was able to just walk through those shots.”
Whittaker noticed a significant difference between the Romero he faced at UFC 213 in July 2017 and the opponent he squared off against nearly a year later at UFC 225. “The Reaper” defeated Romero by unanimous decision for the interim 185-pound title at UFC 213.
“Whatever he’s hydrating on, I would like to know so that I can also hydrate on that. Because it turns you superhuman. When I was punching and kicking him, he felt like metal, like a dude made out of concrete, and it was ridiculous,” Whittaker said. “I fought him a year ago, and he didn’t feel like concrete. His hydration plan worked pretty well I guess.
“He’s a tough guy and he’s a top-caliber athlete, but for him to come back the way he did. For him to feel so differently and perform so differently than he did a year ago…let’s not forget I have fought him before – I have experienced his shots, I have experienced him landing shots. For him to make those changes physically and athletically in a year at the age of 41, I’m leaving that down to nothing more than magic. I can’t see him jumping on a special diet of kale and good fruits and performing like that.”
While Whittaker didn’t outright accuse Romero of using performance enhancing drugs, he pointed out that there are loopholes in the USADA drug-testing program. That includes the whereabouts policy, which is a main component of the out-of-competition testing. Additionally, Whittaker believes there are new designer drugs that have been developed that the agency cannot detect.
“It has too many holes. They can only test for what they know. If there’s a substance or an enhancing drug out there that hasn’t been popped before, and been proven to give benefits, they can’t test for it. Let’s say someone develops a new performance enhancing drug, not using chemicals that they can detect, it’s not gonna pop.
“It’s random testing and they can test you at any given time. But if you’re not home when they arrive, they give you a warning,” Whittaker added. “That’s it. And you’re allowed two a year. Two warnings. If you’re juicing, or if you’re using any kind of [performance-enhancing drugs], you get essentially two ‘get-out-of-jail free’ cards. Which I think is ridiculous.”
Regardless, Whittaker believes Romero should consider a change in weight class. In addition to missing weight before UFC 225, the Cuban also didn’t make weight prior to a victory over Luke Rockhold at UFC 221, a triumph which earned him a title shot despite that misstep. At the UFC post-fight press conference, promotion president Dana White conceded that Romero should consider a move to 205 pounds for his next Octagon appearance, but whether that idea is enforced down the road remains to be seen.
“In my opinion, if you can’t make the weight, and you’re killing yourself that much to make the weight, then you need to change weight,” Whittaker said. “You sign a contract 12 weeks out, and these are the terms and conditions of the contract. As soon as you sign on the dotted line, that’s your job and your responsibility. If you don’t follow any of that criteria, you’ve breached the contract. Him missing weight for Rockhold broke his contract. Him missing weight for [UFC 225], broke that contract. It doesn’t matter if it was 0.2 or 10 [kilograms] that’s not how it works. I think it’s very unprofessional to miss weight – not once but twice.”