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Former UFC title challenger Yoel Romero to join Bellator, make debut at light heavyweight

Yoel Romero will reunite with Scott Coker under the Bellator banner.

Romero (13-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC), a multi-time UFC title challenger who parted ways with the organization earlier this month, is expected to sign a multi-fight contract with Bellator with his debut coming in the light heavyweight division in 2021.

The fighter’s management, Abe and Malki Kawa, both verified the news on Twitter following an initial report from ESPN. MMA Junkie subsequently confirmed the news with a person with knowledge of the move. The person requested anonymity because an official announcement has yet to be made.

Romero, 43, made his UFC debut in April 2013. He won his first eight fights with the promotion to set up a title opportunity against Robert Whittaker at UFC 213 in July 2017. He dropped a decision, but worked his way to a rematch with Whittaker at UFC 225 in July 2018.

The Cuban fighter missed weight for the rematch with Whittaker, then lost a split decision in what many considered to be the “Fight of the Year.”

Romero, who is No. 6 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA middleweight rankings, has since lost decisions to Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya, giving him a 1-4 record leading up to his release.

Although he didn’t capture a title, Romero still left his mark in the UFC. He has the third most knockouts in middleweight history (seven), the third-most knockdowns overall (10), is one of two fighters in UFC history with multiple flying knee finishes, along with other accolades.

Romero fought once for Coker under the now-defunct Strikeforce banner in September 2011. Coker initially said he wasn’t keen to sign “The Soldier of God,” but ultimately the two sides found room for a deal.

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