Last year, Robert Whittaker claimed a decision victory over Yoel Romero, gaining the interim UFC welterweight title in the process.
Now, a month short of a year later, Whittaker will defend the undisputed middleweight crown vs. Romero this Saturday night live at UFC 225 on pay-per-view from the United Center in Chicago.
Whittaker, a 27-year-old former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, is 19-4 overall including that unanimous decision victory vs. Romero at UFC 213. He is unbeaten over his last eight fights dating to a 2014 meeting with Stephen Thompson.
“As an athlete and as a fighter, there isn’t ever a point where I’ve looked at someone and said, ‘I can’t beat him,’” Whittaker said. “But I never really thought that I’d be a UFC champ until I had a sit-down with my current head performance coach, Fabricio Itte.
“He said, ‘I expect you to be champion.’ There was no reason why I couldn’t be, why I shouldn’t be. It was just about sticking to this program, sticking to my guns and doing my thing. And there we were.”
Romero, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, is 41 years old and scored a third round knockout vs. former champion Luke Rockhold this past February. That fight was originally scheduled to be for the interim belt, but Romero missed weight.
“We all know God has blessed me with knockout power,” Romero said. “If I find the slightest chance, I won’t wait long.”
Below is the current fight card:
MAIN CARD (PPV/10 p.m. ET)
UFC Middleweight Championship
Robert Whittaker (c) vs. Yoel Romero
Interim UFC Welterweight Championship
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington
Female Featherweight: Holly Holm vs. Megan Anderson
Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski vs. Tai Tuivasa
Welterweight: CM Punk vs. Mike Jackson
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX Sports 1/8 p.m. ET)
Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem vs. Curtis Blaydes
Strawweight: Claudia Gadelha vs. Carla Esparza
Featherweight: Ricardo Lamas vs. Mirsad Bektic
Heavyweight: Rashad Coulter vs. Chris de la Rocha
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass/6 p.m. ET)
Light Heavyweight: Rashad Evans vs. Anthony Smith
Flyweight: Joseph Benavidez vs. Sergio Pettis
Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Charles Oliveira
Featherweight: Mike Santiago vs. Dan Ige
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