SAN JOSE, Calif. – Yoel Romero enters Bellator with a clear mind and a clear slate.

“The Soldier of God” makes his long-awaited promotional debut against Phil Davis at Bellator 266 after months on the sidelines due to an eye injury. A member of the UFC roster from 2013-2020, Romero (13-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) fought for a title three times but was unsuccessful in each attempt. Despite not winning gold, Romero is content when he reflects back on his tenure with the promotion.

“I don’t think I left anything undone in the UFC,” Romero said at a pre-fight news conference Thursday. “Now, I’m taking another step to keep growing. I was already in the UFC. I humbly believe that I didn’t do too bad. I learned. I keep learning. Everything I learned I will manifest in this great company.”

Saturday’s fight not only signals his promotional debut, it also marks Romero’s return to 205 pounds, a weight he has not competed in since his lone Strikeforce fight in September 2011. Romero feels great not having to cut as much weight – and being able to eat the baked goods his elder female relatives have long begged him to fill up on. That said, Romero doesn’t think the move came a moment too late.

“Everything in life, like I told you earlier, everything is a process,” Romero said. “Everything has a path to it. That’s what happened at first. First, I have to go through 185. It doesn’t mean that I won’t fight at 185 – if there’s a possibility to talk about 185 title. That doesn’t mean it’s going to change the game completely. To not have to worry about what I eat.”

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Romero, 44, has not competed since UFC 248 in March 2020. He exited the UFC on three straight losses, though two of those defeats were in title fights. As he returns to competition for the first time in 18 months, Romero isn’t looking too far past Davis (22-6 MMA, 9-3 BMMA). Unwilling to speculate about the future beyond Bellator 266, Romero is taking his journey step by step.

“First (you need to) set the ground because the ground… it will bring fruit,” Romero said. “First, (I will) set up the ground on Saturday.”

Bellator 266 takes place Saturday at SAP Center. The main card airs on Showtime after prelims on MMA Junkie.


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