Combat sports aren’t quite what they used to be. It wasn’t so long ago that when fighters squared off in the UFC, they were mostly trained in only a single discipline. Jiu jitsu fighter vs. boxer, judoka vs. street fighter, and so on. But in 2012 we are seeing more and more young fighters coming up training and competing in mixed martial arts from very young ages. The edges between disciplines are becoming blurred, and with more promotions popping up all over the world, putting on more shows more frequently, we are seeing less and less single discipline fighters being cultivated at the grassroots level.
Enter Anthony Romero.
At only 16 years old, Romero is already far from a single discipline fighter. What makes his path somewhat unique is that he is cutting his teeth by focusing on, and competing in, one traditional discipline at a time. Romero and his coaches may not be reinventing the wheel with his training, but they are taking an old school approach that goes against the modern trend of immersing youngsters in all elements of the game simultaneously. Thus far, the results have been impressive.
Fighting out of Welland’s Modern Vision MMA, the young man they call “The Genius” is already running out of space in his trophy case. He’s the 2011 Ontario junior low kick champion, 2011 Ontario teen middleweight Brazilian jiu jitsu champion, the 2011 & 2012 Kids Pan Am Brazilian jiu jitsu champion, the 2012 national junior K1 champion, and the 2012 amateur Tatami MMA provincial champion. He was also the city of Welland’s 2010 male athlete of the year before scoring all of those fancy titles. Are you out of breath yet? I hope not, because he’s just getting started.
Romero, who will fight for the East Coast Low Kick Junior Middleweight title belt this weekend in Welland’s first ever live kickboxing event, is starting to catch the attention of the sport’s higher ups. Kickboxing Ontario president Jim Marinow is set to attend the show and take in one of his province’s brightest young prospects.
As if his in-ring accomplishments weren’t crowding up that trophy case enough, this coming October, along with 29 other deserving recipients, Romero will be awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. The award recognizes exceptional local achievements from various walks of life. The Mayor of Welland will also be in attendance at this weekend’s shows, and you can bet he’ll be rooting on the young man who is quickly becoming his city’s favorite son.
What makes Romero’s progression special is not simply the success. There are bright young prospects all over the world that won’t necessarily become stars at the next level, and how Romero progresses in his career is still yet to be seen. What Romero does boast is a more classic approach to learning his craft; one step at a time, conquer the goal at hand and continue to improve. It stirs memories of greats like BJ Penn, who dominated the jiu jitsu world before becoming an MMA legend, or the likes of Mirko Cro Cop, who used his kickboxing prowess as a springboard to mainstream MMA fame. This experience also opens doors competitively for him, as he can choose to pursue some of these traditional martial arts to greater depth as he ages, rather than simply jumping directly into MMA. That’s a unique advantage for a talent of his age and calibre, one that could help to drastically broaden his knowledge base.
Simply put, Anthony Romero is a throwback. A 16-year-old throwback.
Mixed martial arts is an ever-evolving sport, and as time passes, the multitude of styles required in a standard skillset seem to continually melt together. The past will always make way for the future, but thanks to youngsters like Romero, the traditional roots of martial arts will remain very much alive and well.