The nation of Cuba has a proud tradition of world class athletes, boxers and baseball players. Lately the Caribbean Island has been producing world-class grapplers and now Mixed Martial Artists. Names like Alexis Villa and Hector Lombard are paving the way for the future of MMA in Cuba.
LowKick.com has been granted an exclusive interview with Yoel Romero, another fighter trailblazing for Cuban fighters. At a very young age, Yoel Romero has been competing at the highest level in amateur wrestling. In 2000, he reached the peak of his amateur career by winning a silver medal at the Sydney Olympic games in the 85kg division. After a lengthy career as a world class wrestler, in 2009 he made the jump to Mixed Martial Arts, and hasn’t looked back since.
To date he holds a 3-0 record and he has finished all of his fights via TKO. For the hardcore fans that follow the sport, you’ve probably seen his famous ankle toss takedown against Michal Fijalka on Youtube. If you haven’t seen his spectacular highlight, I suggest you read this interview, and get to know this world class grappler, turned Mixed Martial Artist.
Thank you Yoel for granting us this interview. For our readers who are not familiar with your name, how did you first get into Martial Arts?
In Cuba when I was a kid.
You've been wrestling at the highest level for many years, what made you decide to make the transition to Mixed Martial Arts?
My brother Yoel Pablo has been a professional boxer for many years and we've both boxed since we were kids. When I retired from wrestling I still wanted to compete using both my wrestling and boxing skills, so MMA just seemed to be a natural transition.
From your previous background what have you incorporated into your MMA game plan and what have you been working on to improve?
I've definitely incorporated my wrestling into my fighting, but I want to prove to my fans that I can be a stand up fighter. In my last 3 fights I stood up with the guys. I want to show I'm an all-around fighter. I'm currently working on my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because I believe that's where I need the most improvement.
Who have you enlisted in your camp to help mold you into a complete Mixed Martial Artist?
I recently hired a new management team, ML Management. Through them we have hooked up with a great BJJ gym here in Germany and we're exploring ideas for me to train with different camps when I come to the US.
In your 2nd pro bout against Michal Fijalka, you grabbed him by the ankle and flipped him over! We've never seen that before in a MMA fight, what inspired you to try this unorthodox technique, and how do you gain the strength to do it?
I saw an opportunity and I took advantage of it. The ankle-toss takedown is not often done but when a guy is already moving his body weight in that direction, you are able to grab that opportunity, and you can take him down that way. I incorporate some of the principals in judo when I fight.
You are entering the world of MMA at the age of 33, has there ever been a time where you've said to yourself that you are getting into this too late or do you look at someone like Randy Couture as an inspiration?
I've been training at a high level since I was a child. In Cuba when you go into sports, you are put into a training camp very young. You train and compete on international levels at a young age. As an Olympian and professional athlete for so many years, I'm in better shape than guys who start doing this at 18, 19, 20, etc. Look at Alexis Vila, he’s 40 now. He's in better condition than guys in their 20's and schools them. I'm still feel like I’m 20 and have no injuries, so I've never said its too late. I'm just getting started!
Coming from Cuba, combat sports fans are very familiar with it's proud Boxing heritage. Outside of the sport of Boxing, what is the Martial Arts scene like in your native country?
In the Latin American community in general, with the exception of Brazil, Boxing is still more prevalent than MMA. MMA is just now beginning to get popular in my country. We still love our boxing though!
According to your bio you fight out of Nuremberg, Germany, how did you go from the island of Cuba to a slightly colder climate in Germany?
My brother Yoel Pablo was a professional boxer out of Berlin, Germany. I wanted to be where my family was.
What are some of your goals and aspirations in being a professional fighter?
I want to be the best; I want to fight the best period.
For anyone that has never seen you fight, how do you describe your style?
I'm a pound it out fighter. I will stand up with you. I will roll around on the ground with you. I'm an aggressive fighter that will pound you out until you tap out. If you take it to the end you are going to be pretty bloodied up when you get there. That's the type of fighter I am.
Thanks again Yoel for the time, any shout outs?
Thanks to my family, my management team, ML Management and Ray and Tina, and my coaches and training staff.
I would like to thank Tina for translating and for setting up this awesome interview with Yoel!
Photo from Sports.pl