Kaleio Romero: Wrestling With Excitement As A Mixed Martial Artist

By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA

13315541_1086462864759859_9061660454204101609_nAfter wrestling since middle school, Kaleio Romero (am 2-0) didn’t grapple, not even for one round, with the idea of trading in his singlet for a pair of four-ounce gloves. He’d tell you, if you can keep him stationary for long enough, that the thought of becoming an MMA fighter always stuck somewhere between his headgear:

“Ever since I was a kid, I’d watch UFC with my dad. I’ve always wanted to be an MMA fighter. I just love to compete, and I love the intensity level and everything that comes with MMA.”

Early on, the mat of combat sports was always welcoming. Romero competed in Kuk Sool Won, a form of Karate, starting at six years of age. Then, around the years of middle school, he decided to sculpt a skillset of raw power on a canvas rolled out for wrestling. Nearly earning his black belt as a kid and receiving the runner-up honors in high school at the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) State Wrestling Championship, Romero would contend that his aspirations of accolades were housed somewhere else: MMA. Recently, Romero wrapped up the 2015-2016 school year as a student athlete at Sacramento City Junior College, but when he returns in the fall, he’s decided to post a vacancy on his number one seed at 154 pounds,

“I wrestled this last year, but I think I’m going to take a couple classes and just focus on MMA.” 13247847_489187497872776_1803885050969522183_oUnwilling to completely loosen his clinch on wrestling, Romero quickly added, “I’m still going to practice with the team when they start practicing again, but I just want to focus on MMA right now.”

Tattooed with seven islands of paradise across his heart, Romero will happily recant his wrestling career with a smooth Hawaiian calmness, but the mere mention of his place in MMA jumpstarts his charisma as if seated in an electric chair. Romero would suggest there are many similarities between MMA and wrestling, but in his opinion, wrestling rests on Earth’s soil while MMA floats somewhere in its stratosphere. The rookie’s enthusiasm to further his carbon footprint as an elite fighter evidences the necessary mindset to rise to the occasion,

“MMA is kind of like wrestling just on a different level and more factors playing into it, so I just try to match that intensity level.”

13235531_489187424539450_993913952887420845_oSeveral months ago, Romero strapped on his gloves like a pair of floaties and dipped his toe in the lightweight waters when he debuted on May 21, 2016 at NorCal Fight Series (NCFS) 2. As Romero waited in his corner for the referee’s directions to meet his opponent, Michael Bueno, in the center, he bounced around like the floor was flooded with Coca-Cola and he was the lone Pop Rock. The youthful prospect out of MMAGOLD flashed back to that performance,

“Going in there [NCFS 2], I was just really excited to get in there. I wasn’t super-nervous. I was just maybe a little too pumped up and antsy to get in there. I don’t know, I was just trying to get in there and do work.”

If work means: spending three entire rounds attempting to force your opponent through the bottom of the apron while also turning his head like an owl on the feet, everyone in attendance would agree that Romero was a candidate for employee of the month at NCFS 2. In fact, watch him clock-in and have enough in the tank to work overtime against Bueno here:

Unscathed after his victory as an MMA debutant, he was eager to dive back into the cage, so, one month later, Romero accepted the call from NorCal Fighting Championship to face Gabriel Pacheco-Dolce for the lightweight belt. During this outing, Romero absorbed the soothing words of Justin Castrillo, his high school and present-day wrestling coach, and tamed himself from a bottle of 5-Hour Energy to only 2 or 3 hours. He noted the stark contrast between his second performance and the first,

“I was a lot more calm in my second fight. I remember looking back on my first fight and seeing how 13438878_1106411216098357_8165117697814842854_nmy motor was going. Before my second fight, Justin [Castrillo] had told me to calm down a little bit, and I think that helped.”

This budding star is pleased, as he should be, with his improvements from one fight to the next, and his perpetual drive in the gym will prove invaluable moving forward. Scheduled to appear at NCFS 3 on September 10, 2016, the game plan for Romero remains, as he stated, the same,

“I think I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, unless the coaches tell me something I need to do.”

Connect with Kaleio Romero on social media (link here) before he’s detected on the radar of fight fans around the world.



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