Without persistence, dedication and unswerving mental toughness, #11 ranked UFC welterweight Tyron Woodley (12-2) may not be in the position he is today. Ahead of him at UFC 171 lies a crucial test he must pass in order to align himself for a shot at UFC gold.
Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler will trade leather with the winner being crowned the new welterweight champ in the main event this Saturday. In the co-main event, #2 ranked Carlos Condit (29-7) and Woodley will clash in what’s been deemed the bout to determine the next divisional contender.
With only 3 fights in the Octagon under his belt, Woodley has everything to gain with a dominant win. In his UFC debut, Woodley knocked out longtime MMA veteran Jay Hieron in under 40 seconds. Next, Woodley squared off with Jake Shields and took home a split decision loss. Then at UFC 167, “The Chosen One” made quick work of a veteran of 22 UFC fights, Josh Koscheck, finishing the former Ultimate Fighter season one competitor in the opening round of action.
With a win over Condit, Woodley would soar to heights he’s only contemplated up until now.
“We could talk all day about what happens afterwards. But the fact of the matter is, I’ve got to focus on Carlos Condit, beating him in good fashion, going out there and showcasing what I can do, going on all cylinders for myself and my career,” Woodley told MMA Fight Corner in an interview. “My goal is go out there and give you guys 90 to 100 percent of what I’m capable of doing everytime and when I do that, I think I win most of my fights. So that’s my goal. Everything else will handle itself in victory.”
At UFC on FOX 9, Condit was expected to tussle with Matt Brown. But Brown pulled out of the bout with a back injury. So the UFC scrambled to get the former interim champ an opponent for a future card. Initially, Condit agreed to rematch Nick Diaz, but a semi-retired Diaz didn’t take the fight. When the door opened, Woodley took matters into his own hands and made his play for a shot at the “Natural Born Killer”.
As seen on Countdown to UFC 171, Woodley hounded UFC President Dana White to give him a chance to go toe-to-toe with one of the most dangerous men in the UFC.
“I sent him a couple of long text messages, so they might have broken up into the number he came up with, which was I think 15 times. I was just adamant,” Woodley said of campaigning for the fight to Dana White. “I really felt that this bout was a great match-up and that was really all it had to be. It was a great match-up, the fans are really excited about it. I’m getting so many people blasting me on Twitter and Instagram that they bought the pay-per-view for this fight. This is the main event to them because of the style match-up. Not taking away from the main event, those guys are knockout artists. I think someone’s going down in that fight. I just think it was a great match-up and a victory puts me in line for a world title.”
On July 14, 2010, undefeated Tyron Woodley stood in the spotlight of the Strikeforce hexagon and battled Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship. That night, Woodley suffered the first defeat of his professional MMA career when Marquardt ended him with elbows in the fourth round.
But what he took away from that loss served as his motivation to work harder. Without the setback against Marquardt, Woodley said he may not be where he is now.
“I should almost thank Nate Marquardt,” Woodley stated. “For me, it really took me out of a comfort zone. You can’t achieve greatness with comfort. Muhammad Ali said, ‘None of this is comfort.’ He said, ‘I hated everyday of training. I hated everyday of practice.’ But if you push through it, he said you’ll be a champion forever. That puts things in a different perspective when you think about all the hard training and all the things that could happen.”
That loss also forced Woodley to face his greatess fear – defeat. Now that he knows what a setback feels like, the only thing Woodley fears is not being able to perform at his fullest. A former wrestler who has recently shown he has power striking at his disposal, the American Top Team trained athlete has without a doubt developed his skill set and elevated his game.
The big payoff for his efforts could be in the near future, if he can clinch a win at the American Airlines Arena on March 15. As confirmed by Woodley, it’s not just Carlos Condit who has been promised a title shot.
“Yes it’s been confirmed that this is a number one contendership bout,” Woodley explained. “The media, they want to put a spin on it. They want to say if Carlos wins, he gets a fight. To me, it’s pretty clear cut from Dana that a number one contendership bout means that the victor of this fight is the number one contender…I think that’s why we’re matched up as the co-main event. You got a showcase of who the next #1 contender is right on the same night that you found out who the next champion is. It’s been 100 percent confirmed to me.”
Since Georges St-Pierre vacated the UFC Welterweight Championship following UFC 167, those atop the division have been clamoring to get a shot at the strap. GSP set a record for most defenses of the welterweight belt and held onto it for seven years. Woodley agrees that filling his shoes will be no easy feat, but also sees the divisional shake up as nothing less than thrilling.
“Champions, you’re the target. Everyone’s coming for you. You have to constantly own it, you’ve got to reign over it, you’ve got to rule over it, you’ve got to hold onto your belt. So I think the pressure that [St-Pierre] got was a lot and I think once people get in that position where they’re champion, they realize how important it is to stay champion and what you have to do,” said Woodley. “And some guys just don’t want to get finished, so I think we’re going to get a treat in [the UFC 171 main event]. I think the next [championship fight] will be intriguing as well and I think there’s a lot of fights coming after that with new contenders and fresh meat that’s coming into the division that’s going to keep it exciting for a very long time.”
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley takes place on the UFC 171 main card in Dallas, Texas and airs on pay-per-view. The American Airlines Arena hosts the March 15th event which features a battle for the vacant UFC Welterweight Championship between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
Check out the full interview with Tyron here: