Yoel Romero has quite an impressive combat sports resume. Before he began making a name in MMA, the “Soldier of God” was a prominent figure in the international wrestling circuit.
Having competed all over the world, including the 2000 Olympics where he won a silver medal, Romero actually credits Makhachkala in Dagestan, Russia as the “best city in the world for wrestling.”
“I stayed for three months in this city when I was wrestling,” Romero told members of the media during a UFC 248 luncheon this week (transcript by MMA Fighting). “I stayed three months in Dagestan. All in my division, six or seven world champions in Dagestan.
“Those six people for one of them to come out on top for the world championships or the Olympic games. You can’t imagine — six people, [all] world champions but you have that many people [to train with].”
Dagestan, of course, is the hometown of undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who apparently saw Romero in action for the first time as a 14-year-old.
“I remember the first time when I saw him, he was in the United States, was at my first fight,” Romero recalled. “I finish the win, he went ‘hey Yoel, you remember me?’ and I said ‘no, who are you?’ He said ‘I am Khabib Nurmagomedov, I see you the first time when you stayed in Dagestan, a big tournament and I saw you and I was only 14 years old.’ I said, ‘oh really?’
“And he said ‘now I stay here, now I am a fighter for the UFC. I said ‘oh congratulations.’”
The 42-year-old Romero will attempt to follow in Khabib’s footsteps of capturing UFC gold when he challenges Israel Adesanya at UFC 248. It happens this weekend at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.