Although a middleweight fight between top contenders Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa was announced by the UFC as official for UFC 230 on Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden, Romero made it clear Monday that the fight will not happen.
Appearing on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, Romero said his manager has told UFC president Dana White that he can fight "but not right now."
"Maybe four or five months," Romero said of his return. "The doctor said, 'Yoel needs more time.' You know me. If you give me somebody, I take it. But you need to be smart. When the doctor says, 'You're ready,' you can go. I'm waiting."
Romero (13-3) said he had surgery to repair a broken orbital bone suffered in the first round of his split-decision loss to Robert Whittaker in May. The bout, a five-round affair that some consider the top fight of 2018, allowed Whittaker to retain the UFC's middleweight belt.
Romero failed to make weight ahead of that fight by two-tenths of a pound. It was the second consecutive matchup in which Romero failed to reach 185 pounds or less. There was speculation that Romero would move up to light heavyweight because of his recent problems on the scale, but he shot that down quickly.
"I talked with the UFC and said I'm not going to go up," Romero said. "Maybe in the future. People need to see the belt on my body. When I take the belt, maybe I'll go up and fight a superfight [against another champion]."
Recovery from the eye surgery, plus training time, sets up a potential return later this winter for Romero. His next opponent could still be Costa, one of the rising stars in the UFC. Costa, from Brazil, has won all 12 of his professional fights, most recently a second-round TKO win against Uriah Hall in July.
Romero, who told Helwani he recently signed a new eight-fight contract with the UFC, said he will not rush his return to the Octagon.
"My eye is not ready," Romero said. "I want to fight, but it is what it is. The doctor said, 'Yoel cannot fight.' I want to fight on this card, this show. Anytime you have an opportunity to fight at Madison Square Garden in New York, you're making history. But I need to wait."