Yoel Romero and The Importance of Good PR

When all was said and done at the end of Saturday’s main event between Yoel Romero and Lyoto Machida, things were looking pretty good for the former silver medalist wrestler. In a sudden burst of violence — something that is becoming a trademark for him — Romero had taken down and smashed a former light heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger in his sixth fight in the UFC.

Not only did this monumental victory add an impressive win over a potential future hall of famer to his resume in his first ever main event bout, it also put him into an exclusive club as one of the three legitimate title challengers for Chris Weidman’s belt.

As Romero walked over to be interviewed by Jon Anik post match, I sat on the edge of my seat hoping that Romero had learned from MMA history and was about to call out either the champion or Jacare Souza. After all, you can’t let these post fight interviews go to waste as calling someone out can be very beneficial to your career, especially after a finish in a main event. Then…

Wait, What Did He Say?!

I would say we all heard what Yoel Romero said last night, but I’d be lying. The truth is, I don’t think that anyone can definitively make out exactly what Romero said in his post fight interview, and there is no way he will admit saying anything homophobic now that he has stirred controversy. When I watched it live, the only words I heard were USA and Jesus. Therefore, I was more disappointed with his lack of a call out at first.

That’s when I looked at my Twitter feed to see if anyone felt the same. Upon coming to the realization that Romero very well may have bashed the Supreme Court for legalizing same-sex marriage, I decided to re-watch his interview again… and again… and again… and again.

I’m still not sure whether he closed his opening statement with “Go for Jesus, no forget Jesus, people” or “Go for Jesus, no for gay Jesus people”, and his accent was heavy enough to cover it up if he said the latter. However, when you look at the context of the rest of his little speech, it is kind of hard to think he was talking about anything other than that. It is especially hard to believe that he was referring to the American dream, as he claimed later in the night.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It’s kind of hard to come down on someone for believing what they believe within their own mind. However, there is a difference between believing something and actively proclaiming it. Yoel Romero may have taken the biggest opportunity of his life and squandered it in order to deliver some hate mail to the MMA community. I mean, instead of calling for a title shot or a number one contenders fight, he spit out a cryptic speech that may not have been — but probably was — coming down on same-sex marriage.

Be careful, We are trying to like you

You don’t need to be a genius to realize that, that won’t gain you any favor with the fans or the UFC. The point is, Yoel Romero is an exciting new addition to the contenders club in the middleweight division. He looks like the Hulk and fights like him as well with his smothering wrestling style, monstrous knockout power, and ability to put out straight violence in short but deadly bursts. The fans were ready to get on board the Yoel Romero hype train, but the sour taste he left in their mouths with his comments left them at home.

This is definitely not the first time a fighter has said something stupid in the face of the public. It’s not even the first time that a fighter has bashed same-sex marriage to the public – looking at you, Josh Thomson. We’ve seen Al Iaquinta curse at fans for booing him, we’ve seen Brock Lesnar bash a UFC sponsor only to talk up that same sponsor’s competition, and we’ve even seen Jacob Volkmann get a visit from the Secret Service due to his challenging of none other than Barrack Obama in his post fight interviews. History has taught us that fighters might not be the best at saying the right things at the right times.

They’re fighters, people will tell you, so we shouldn’t expect more from them in that regard. It’s not like this problem exists exclusively in MMA, sports media is full of quotes from athletes who have said things they probably shouldn’t have. But it might be about time that fighters like Volkmann and Yoel Romero get some tips from a PR manager, as most athletes in other sports do. Learning how to speak to the media, or in public at all, without saying anything that could damage the reputation’s of you and the company you are representing, is a skill that all athletes need to learn. It might be the most valuable skill they can pick up outside of their actual sport.

It’s crucial enough for football and hockey players to maintain a good image. The importance doubles when you’re talking about a sport where individuals replace teams. Not only that, but in this sport, fighters make money off of how many people view their fights. Saying the right things and avoiding the wrong ones when speaking to the media is a huge part of gaining a solid following of people who will pay to see you perform on a regular basis.

We Want You to Talk and So Do the UFC

Look at Conor McGregor. McGregor knows that there is a line and what happens when you cross it. Due to this, McGregor has mastered the art of walking that line perfectly. People may hate him because of his trash talk, but they have no reason to believe he is a terrible person. Due to this, the things McGregor says actually entice people to watch his fights, whether they want to see him win or lose.

Even Ben Rothwell’s most recent post fight speech, though maybe not as articulate as McGregor and definitely more bizarre, is all in good fun and at least has people talking about him without his reputation as a person being damaged.

Those two fighters have intrigued fans with their words, without offending them to a point where they will refuse to view their fights. Like I said before, we really can’t get upset at Yoel Romero for believing what he does. We also can’t tell him what he can and can’t say. However, when he publicly takes a stance that is one full of hate towards a community of people who have wronged him in no way — especially when Christians are supposed to believe that only God can judge others — fans are entitled to think negatively of him as a person.

They say no publicity is bad publicity, but in this strange world we call the MMA community, I just can’t imagine Yoel Romero and his comments helping himself or his company in any way.

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