FanSided MMA has scouted current bantamweight Cortavious Romious as our pick for the next UFC signing. Here’s why.
It was Dec. 5, 2015, one week before UFC 194, and Cortavious Romious found himself defending his featherweight championship against a man named David Evans at a Shamrock FC amateur MMA event. It only 24 seconds for Romious to retain his title, and he did it in spectacular fashion — a tornado spinning back kick that sent his opponent out cold and Romious into viral success.
Romious earned Knockout of the Year awards as an amateur. Today, he is a 4-0 professional fighter competing on the regional circuit, with three finishes to his credit. He most recently competed at a Shamrock FC event in April, scoring a dominant unanimous decision over Jacob Thrall.
Looking back on his popular knockout three-and-a-half years later, Romious told FanSided in an exclusive interview that while it may have all looked planned, he actually taught himself how to do the kick and didn’t go in with the plan to throw it.
In fact, Romious was the only one who gave himself the motivation to be a fighter, keeping a promise for after high school he made to himself.
“I remember when I first started I was like, ‘Hey mom, can you sign me up for martial arts?’ And she was like ‘Hell no, you ain’t doing that,'” Romious told FanSided. “I ended up moving with my dad and it was after senior year, I was done with school and it was already in mind I was going to do MMA. ‘Hey pops, can you help me out with doing MMA?’ ‘You can do it yourself.’ And that motivated me.
“It stuck in my mind. ‘You know what? I’m going to do it myself.’ I got a job and I found an MMA gym I could afford to go to.’ And the craziest thing about that kick, I had no taekwondo experience or any fighting experience at all. I taught myself how to do that. It looked like I knew what I was doing, but I was in there to cause havoc and raise some hell. I was there to fight, and that’s what I do in all my fights. I come in to put on a good show, give the crowd what they want to see and give it my all.”
The 25-year-old who fights out of Missouri was raised in a house of seven, with two older sisters. Romious said he faced struggles growing up and got into plenty of fights.
But his first exposure to MMA came one summer when he caught his first televised UFC show and got to witness UFC Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (aka Minotauro or “Big Nog”) in action.
“I was just sitting back, watching like, ‘Wow, man. I really think I can do this,'” he said. “I grew up fighting. I got the killer instinct in me.”
Romious tried out for the wrestling team the next school year, but he was forced to stop early due to age limitations. That was when he made the promise to himself to start training MMA after his education was done. And in 2014, he found a local gym in Illinois with a focus on Muay Thai and didn’t look back.
“Ever since then, I have been fighting. And it has been five years now and it’s gotten me to where I’m at now,” Romious said. “[I’m] 4-0 as a pro and every day a new door pops up and I’m just walking in because you never know what’s behind them. Everything is opening up, man. Every day I wake up and think ‘Man, I’ve been doing this. I sacrificed everything for this and everything is going to pay off. I’m so hungry to get to that next level.
“I came from the projects, growing up in a house of seven, with what I’ve been through. All the struggle I had to go through and to see where I’m at now, it feels like a blessing.”
Romious made his amateur MMA debut in March 2015, going on to amass a 7-3 record. He also had amateur boxing and kickboxing experience, losing his sole boxing bout but going 4-0 in kickboxing. Despite all these fights as an amateur, Romious feels he didn’t get enough fights on the circuit as he wanted to.
This is where the downside of going viral came — Romius said after pulling off the highlight-reel kick, he competed just two times in 2016 and not once in 2017, claiming he was having a hard time finding a fight.
“After that happened, I kind of went cold for a couple of years,” Romious said. “I couldn’t sign a single fight. But then, eventually, I fought a few more fights. But I ended up having to go pro because I just got tired of waiting around.”
But it was also after that sensational finish that Romious went to St. Charles MMA in Missouri, where he would meet TUF 27 alumnus and current UFC lightweight Luis Pena. Romious said he and “the Violent Bob Ross” bonded over similar backgrounds, as well as sharing the same passion and drive.
The two are great friends who keep each other motivated, with Romious saying he looks up to Pena and calls him “a brother to me.”
“I was getting ready for another fight I took on short terms because I was just itching to get back in the cage,” Romious said. “Things ended up not going my way, but as I was training, Luis was standing there. [We] stayed in that gym every day and we trained our [expletive] off every single day. We didn’t have a job — we used to work here and there but it wasn’t consistent. We used to wake up every day and wonder ‘What are we going to eat today?’ We didn’t have [expletive]. It motivated us when we were training. ‘This is what we are here to do. We sacrifice everything. We put our blood, sweat and tears into this.’
“Our relationship grew and it’s doing nothing but growing and getting better. He’s done a lot for me and I’ve done a lot for him. I’d do anything for that guy. He’s a positive, well-spoken guy.”
In addition to Romious and Pena, some of the more familiar names to have trained at St. Charles MMA at one point or another include Zach Freeman — who competed in Bellator — and UFC veterans Josh Sampo and Lance Benoist. Even former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and fellow UFC star Zak Cummings, as well as Bellator standout Michael Chandler, got their start in the Missouri training facility.
But plenty in the gym are like Romious in that they’re local and regional fighters with big dreams and long roads ahead. And Romious feels that the journey all of them have to go through gives him and his team a strong bond.
“They say it’s not a team sport, but then again, I feel like it is because they’re the ones who push you through all the hell to get you ready for the fight,” he said. “[Pena] never let me [expletive]. I never let him [expletive]. He’s staying on my [expletive]. The same thing goes for him, and the same thing goes for everybody else.”
Romious says while he always looks to win every fight and he dreams of one day holding up UFC bantamweight gold, his main goal every night he fights is to “be the greatest that I can be and to know that I gave it my all in every fight.”
And with that, he’d like to inform UFC brass, including president Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby, that if they’re looking for an entertaining fighter to showcase, to look no further.
“If you want to see a real fight, just give me the chance to go out there and show you I am not to be [expletive] with,” Romious said when asked about what message he’d send them. “I do not play that [expletive] when I step into that Octagon. It’s like fireworks. I’m in there with straight business and to finish. I don’t go in there to [expletive], I don’t go in there for attention, I don’t go in there and be cocky. I don’t care about [any] of that. My only goal is to go in there and to finish if possible. I’m coming to bring the fight.”
Click here to read on FanSided MMA’s potential prospect from last week: Vinicius de Jesus