The North Dakota native will take centerstage in the main event at Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) 24 on Mar. 6 when he collides with Ben Smith for the vacant welterweight title. It’s not just his promotional debut, but it’ll be the first time he engages in a championship fight airing nationwide on AXS TV.
“It feels actually unbelieveably amazing,” Romero told Fight Corner. “It’s a dream come true to finally get to this point. It’s been 10 long, gruesome, grinding years to get to this point and I’ve embraced the grind and I’m really excited. I’m counting the days.”
Prior to signing with the RFA, Romero contemplated retirement. After competing for such a long time without much recognition, Romero was losing his focus. As he put it, that could’ve lead to an “unforgiveable situation” that wouldn’t be fair to his coaches, family, or himself. Once RFA called him up for the welterweight title fight, Romero changed his mind.
Having the main event spotlight, fighting on a televised fight card and gunning for a belt could add a lot of pressure upon anyone. But “Mean Bean” insisted that this is precisely the challenge he’s been awaiting.
“To me, all I ever wanted was to be on a major show. I wasn’t really too picky about what show that was. I’m very thankful that it is RFA. So to me, it’s no pressure, like per se, if UFC is watching,” said Romero. “There’s no pressure with that. Obviously, every fighter’s goal is to get to the UFC, that would be icing on the cake for me. Right now, I’m just focused on this fight and I’m honored and very appreciative of the opportunity to fight in the main event for RFA on live television. That’s what I’ve wanted.”
Now training out of Minnesota where he also resides with his family, Romero also works as a parole officer. Nine hours a day, he’s on the road traveling to check in with his cases. Romero works with high level offenders, most of whom have just been released from prison.
“It’s not just a nice, relaxing drive. You’re constantly playing out bad scenarios in your head. ‘What’s going to happen? What are you going to do if this happens? How are you going to respond?’ It’s a constant turmoil and stress when you’re on the road. And the second you get complacent and you lose track of that, you can wind up in a sticky situation.
“Where I work, we’re not allowed be armed,” Romero continued. “So I’m going into the houses by myself where some law enforcement officers won’t go in with guns, with partners. So it can be pretty sticky.
“I wouldn’t change what I do for anything. It’s what I dreamt bout doing, which can probably play in part to probably why I haven’t made it as far as I’d like to in fighting because I refuse to give up my job to train full-time. It’s something that I’m very passionate about.”
Though he hasn’t given up his job as a parole officer, Romero said that the fight camp he’s had for his showdown with Smith has been his best to date. He’s committed to this camp and travels as far as four hours away to prepare for his fight on Mar. 6.
“I’ve sacrificed a lot of my personal stuff outside of work – time with my wife, time with my kids,” said Romero. “It’s been a grueling 190 some-odd days of training camp that I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of things that somebody who trains full-time has the luxury of not having to do. I’m very thankful for everything. I’m thankful for the grind. I have been training hard.”
Wrestling since the age of three, Romero was also a high school wrestling champion. In fact, it’s as though he was born to fight. Romero was born without an outer right ear and had to learn how to get by with only 50 percent of his hearing. An article published by IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com explained that Romero “has a right ear drum, but no opening.” Doctors thought he’d have developmental issues and lack balance, but the 34-year-old never allowed that to hold him back. Nor has it been an issue in the cage.
“I have 11 older brothers and I think I’ve just been bred to not allow to hinder me or not notice the hinderance. If something has bothered me because of that, I wouldn’t acknowledge it. I’d always power through it,” he explained.
When it comes time to step into the cage in his own backyard of Minnesota, Romero believes he’ll be able to make Smith uncomfortable, pour on the pressure and finish him. In all, Romero owns 21 stoppage victories on his professional record.
“Everything I’ve seen on him, it’s like watching myself fight. Except I think I’m a little more seasoned than him. I think that I enjoy getting hit more than him. I can’t really say exactly what’s going to be the determining factor. But I feel in my heart that I’m a little grittier than he is…It’s going to boil down to that.
“I think that our wrestling is going to be pretty equal,” Romero added. “It’s all going to depend on who pushes the pace and that’s really what I’ve been working on in this camp. I’ve noticed a lot on my other fights that I don’t really push the pace. I’m not a pace pusher. I’m more of an opportunist, I’m a counter fighter. You can look for me to really push the pace in this fight. I’m going to be in his face a lot.”
Romero vs. Smith will be the main event of RFA 24 taking place in Prior Lake, Minnesota, on Mar. 6 from the Mystic Lake Casino. The main card will air on AXS TV starting at 10 p.m. EST.