(When Romero says his grill has been "iced out" for the last couple months, he means that literally. PicProps: MMA Bay)
For a pro fighter, a lot of things seem atypical about Ricardo Romero. First off, as he tells Old Dad in an interview with MMA Fighting on Monday, Romero’s MMA career still plays second fiddle to his day job as an energy derivatives broker on Wall Street. Secondly, he admits he only started training to fight as a way to get over the depression of breaking up with his baby mama. Lastly, and most of interest to us here at the Potato, Romero managed to overcome a laundry list of injuries suffered during his UFC debut in July to defeat Seth Petruzelli by second-round arm bar.
Romero pretty much got the tar beat out of him for the first five-plus minutes of his bout against Petruzelli. Despite a 10-1 record compiled fighting on New Jersey’s independent scene – including victories over some known names like the UFC’s James McSweeney as well as TUF washouts Constantinos Phillippou and Karen Grigoryan – Romero looked completely unprepared for UFC action. He was “Octagon jitters” personified and his honesty on that subject is something else that is refreshing about the former Rutgers wrestler.
"You know how people talk about being in the zone, or Michael Jordan would say the basketball hoop was so big that I could just throw it in?” Romero says. “This was the complete other end of that. I was thinking about every step I took. Left foot, right foot, throw a left, throw a right. And I knew, man, this is not going well. Then it was like, great, now I’m thinking about how bad I’m fighting when I should just be fighting."
Romero got battered by Petruzelli’s full-speed-ahead attack through the first, including getting dropped to the canvas with a right hand. Somewhere along the way, some really bad stuff happened to his body. Though he didn’t know the full extent of it until later, Romero suffered a broken jaw, torn pectoral muscle and sprained knee during the fight. Fortunately for him, however, Petruzelli also appeared to punch himself out and not long after Romero realized something was wrong with his jaw, he was able to put "The Silverback" on the mat and secure the submission.
"I just knew something was up right at the end there when I was on top of him and all the blood started coming out of my mouth,” he says. “That’s when I realized, I tried to close my mouth and I couldn’t. My jaw just wasn’t lining up right and I couldn’t close my mouth. Not good. You worry about it for a little bit, but I just kept plugging along and I was fortunate enough to have him tap."
As our man Fowlkes tells it, the aftermath of the fight was not pretty:
He couldn’t close his jaw all the way … When he tried to lift his arm a sharp pain shot through his chest, indicating that something was probably damaged in there. His knee was also starting to stiffen up, making even the act of standing in the shower seem increasingly dicey.
"I was just thinking, this is going to be a really fun trip back home," Romero recalled with a chuckle.
According to something called MyCentralJersey.com, Romero’s win over Petruzelli was named the fourth best fight of the year by USA Today, though the website wondered if he might have to spend most of his $16,000 in winnings on getting his jaw wired shut.
Fowlkes reports Romero’s compatriots on Wall Street have nicknamed him “Mumbles” as a result of that injury. Who says those guys don’t have a sense of humor?