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UFC releases former middleweight title contender Yoel Romero

In a surprising move, the UFC released former middleweight title contender Yoel Romero Friday with three fights left to go on his contract.

ESPN's Ariel Helwani first reported the news, getting a quote from Romero's management that he is already talking to other promotions while thanking the UFC and alluding to the fact this was unexpected.

The 43-year-old with an 80s style pro wrestling physique was known for both exciting and controversial fights during his seven year run. A freestyle wrestling silver medalist in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Romero challenged for both the undisputed and interim middleweight title four times but was eligible to win the belt only twice due to missed weight cuts.

The "Soldier of God" won his first eight UFC fights in a row which included victories over former champions Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida, Tim Kennedy, Jacare Souza, Derek Brunson, and Brad Tavares. He challenged Robert Whittaker for the interim belt in July 2017 and lost via decision. He was due to challenge him again a year later for the undisputed version, but he missed weight and lost via split decision.

He faced Luke Rockhold for the interim title in February 2018, but he missed weight and knocked out Rockhold anyway. After a close loss to Paulo Costa in August 2019, he unsuccessfully challenged Israel Adesanya for the title in a widely panned fight in March -- the last fight in front of fans before the pandemic changed everything.