Over the last two years, Tyron Woodley has quietly gone from one of the best in the UFC welterweight division to knocking on the door of pound for pound greatness. His elevation to the elite of the elite just isn’t obvious. The undisputed welterweight champ isn’t going to promote himself as something he’s not. He’s a family man, an All-American, and someone who wants to win. Period. Tyron Woodley has no use for silly flashes of bravado in which fists fly, careers are shortened, and a loss can easily be added to a Wikipedia page.
This has led to a contentious relationship with fans for the 35-year-old. His tendency to get in fights some consider boring without understanding the context of the action in the cage has bounced him from exciting knockout to 25-minute chess matches, which can be confusing to the average viewer. Woodley can wear a lot of hats in the Octagon. He’s defeated one of the greatest strikers in the welterweight division in Stephen Thompson, one of the best brawlers in Robbie Lawler, and arguably the greatest MMA grappler ever in Demian Maia. He can do it all, but he won’t ever not be himself.
Now his on-again, off-again feud with UFC president Dana White has started anew, and for a guy who mostly lets his performances in the cage do the talking, it’s added a new dimension to his persona. It puts his win/loss record in a different light.
UPROXX: It’s funny that I’m getting to talk to you because I was just last week, I was writing a piece titled “Tyron Woodley’s feud with Dana White is Finally Making me a Fan”. But now, supposedly, you’re squashing the beef. What’s going on with that?
Tyron Woodley: I’m really not going to give any more public attention to it. I mean, we still, as professionals, obviously … It’s his boat and I’m just trying to make sure I’m on the boat, traveling to the motherland, but I think it’s a respectful way we can operate. There are some things that I would like to be done a little bit differently and I’m pretty sure some things that they would like for me to do a little differently and I think it’s worth of a conversation of us sitting down and trying to figure out, because at the end of the day, it’s a partnership, you know? You both should be helping each other, they should be helping me, promoting me, and I should be helping promote the fight so that I win and they win.
It seems like you’re invalidating a lot of the complaints the fans and Dana have against you, because how can you call someone who kicks the ass of the best of the best strikers and the best grapplers, boring?
The unfortunate truth about our sport right now is it’s very fair weather. There was a time when guys just loved the wrestlers, there was a time when guys loved the jiu jitsu guys when it first started, a guy that weighed 30 pounds less than a guy, the ability to submit him and make him, force him to tap out. Then it got to an era when f you were in those bloodbath fights, like a Stephan Bonner versus Forrest Griffin or Gilbert Melendez versus Diego Sanchez, any kind of back and forth, that’s what our sport likes now. They like that, they also want you to talk a little crap, wear a fly suit, and it’s not so much about the sport aspect of it. There’s no “this guy is the best guy in this division.”
Think about any other game: basketball, triple over time, or Olympic or collegiate wrestling, or coming down to one last play or something like that. Every match is not a teeter-totter war back and forth where a guy’s beating you up, you’re beating him up, you talked a lot of crap in the beginning, and then you just so happen to hug it out in the end.
That’s what our fans, not only think, but they’ve been taught that’s the recipe for a great fight, you know? Even if it was poor technique, sloppiness, no defense shown, this guy got beat up, other dude ran out of gas trying to beat him up and allowed the other guy to get back in the fight. That’s what’s really going on if you really want to be honest. So I just have always wanted to dominate, I fight hard, I fight to finish. When you’re fighting the top of the top and it doesn’t work out, some of them don’t want to get finished. I don’t want to get finished. And I’m just really unapologetic about my fighting style, it’s a lot of work that goes into it, a lot of hard work and mental toughness.
So going back to that, I think this is the second or third time that you’ve said like, “Hey, the beef with Dana White is squashed” and I’m not going to dwell on this too much, but what makes you think that this time is going to be different?
I don’t think it’s different. A lot of people don’t realize that it’s not that I’m insensitive when it comes down to stuff like that, they’re disappointed that when you’re a fighter, and this sport is a lot about brands, it’s a lot about your image and the people that follow you. When you say things that are damaging to a person’s brand or career, you limit their ability to try to grow themselves so they can’t get that fight. That Marquee fight. That’s my frustration because there are other people, who I feel like, they may not even have earned the type of push and the promotions they’ve been given. And they’re not the champion and they haven’t beaten a certain type of people, they haven’t, you know what I mean? They don’t even possess the skillset for the amount of push they’ve been given and the question is always left to be “Why?”
What are other fighters on this roster are fighting more number one contenders than me? Who else is doing all the things outside of octagon like I’m doing? Who’s one of the most professional fighters out there who looks a certain part, never taken a PED in his life and literally goes out there, last minute and all this, six weeks notice and fighting the best of the best of the best. And those are the only fights I’ve asked for, the extreme best in the division. So it just kind of bothers me, so I wanted to sit down and figure out what’s the rationale. What’s the next step or how do we clear this up? How do we do this thing differently? ‘Cause I’m not going nowhere. You don’t have anybody in the roster that can beat me, you don’t have anybody that you have currently signed. My toughest matchups, my toughest opponents, are the ones that I’ve already fought.
Have you had that discussion with Dana then?
Briefly over the phone, I think sometimes when things get hot and heated, you need to quit out for a little bit and I think it’s been the time where now we should refocus the conversation.
So you have this guy coming up from Ferguson Missouri, feuding with the boss. He’s a bad ass champion, beat everybody in his way. Isn’t that a marketable angle? Why not just lean into that?
I think indirectly, it is a marketable. You remember the Tito Ortiz feud, they went back and forth. They were all at each other’s throat. Tito’s still making money, fighting for more titles. So, that’s not something I’m doing on purpose, I’m not really trying to, but I’ve worked real hard in my life, I’ve been through a lot, a lot of people didn’t even have a clue what it’s taken for me to be in this position. And I’m never going to be disrespected. I’m never going to allow myself to go on clearance. And I feel like if there’s a point where I feel like the clearance sticker is about to go over my price tag, I gotta stand up for myself. ‘Cause if you don’t stand up for yourself, nobody else will and you’ll consistently be put on clearance and you’ll initially get grandfather claused in and then your chance, your bargaining powers go down.
So, there are times that Dana and the UFC had some great opportunities for me and there was a great opportunity for me and I took ’em and there were no questions asked about it. There’s been times where we both had to kind of, you know, kinda compromise and come to some terms and we did that. There’s also been some times where things were lopsided leaning for their benefit and my detriment and those are the times you gonna hear me speak out.
I was looking back over your old fights and I couldn’t believe that you fought peak Paul Daley and I think that was your eight or ninth professional fight. You’ve gone through killers your entire career and now you’re here. But with that said, how can you deny Rafael Dos Anjos as the number one contender?
You know, I haven’t denied anybody as the number one contender.
The only thing is, there’s no such thing as the number one contender. There used to be. And go back over to Strikeforce, I fought everybody at their peak. That’s what people start to realize. In victory and defeat, I fought Paul Daley … Even my first Strike Force fight, my first fight was Zach Light, who was a UFC veteran. My first fight ever fighting as a young fighter, I get a UFC veteran on national television, so I’ve never not been tested. Like you said, peak Paul Daley, after he had had one of the best first rounds ever against Nick Diaz for the world title.
Nick vacated the belt, went to the UFC, why wouldn’t they make that fight for a world title? I have no clue. I outstruck him. Then I fought Terac Saffiedine in his prime, beat him. Then I fought Jordan Mein when he was a young gun, up and coming prospect. Seven wins in a row, knocked out some of the who’s who of the sport. Then I had the fight, the grindiest grinder ever in Nathan Coy. And then, it just went up from there. Every fight was a step up. The Jay Hieron, the Koschecks, the Condits, Rory MacDonalds, the Jake Shields, Robbie Lawlers, the prospect of Kelvin Gastelum, the Dong Hyun Kim who’s on two or three knockouts in a row.
I have been doing this and it’s just like, people have a short-term memory and they look at my record, you know out of my 18 victories, 11 of ’em are finishes, nine happened in the first round. So, I know I can look back, I’ve done what I’ve done, and I know what I’ve avoided with this sport and I’m okay. I can look in the mirror and I know who I am. And that’s what sustains me, that’s what I’ve been able to keep me to the point. But these guys that are talking, what have they done? What did they do?
Dos Anjos, yeah, he came over, he beat Neil Magny, Tarec Saffiedine, then Robbie Lawler. But tell me which one of those guys were in their prime, tell me if he fought the Robbie Lawler that was the fighter of the year, back to back, with his most grueling fights against Condit and Rory MacDonald. But did he fight the one that I knocked out that sat around for 14 months sulking and sorrowing? That’s the one he fought, the one that barely looked like a fraction of the Robbie Lawler that we saw against the other fights when he fought Cerrone. He fought that one, he fought Dong Hyun Kim, after Dong Hyun Kim was only fighting in Asia at that time. I knocked him out in 60 seconds.
So it’s not even comparative. It’s like, I appreciate what these guys are doing, I had to bark loud for a Johny Hendricks fight. I had to bark loud for the Kelvin Gastelum fight, I had to bark loud for the Carlos Condit fight, I had to bark loud for the Robbie Lawler fight. All those fights, I barked loud. I was trying to fight the best of the best of the best. And in victory and in defeat, it was all worth it. That’s why I’m sitting at where I’m at right now.
Right, so I can’t disagree with your logic there as far as RDA. But then, why hold that fault against him for being on a three-fight win streak, but then want to fight Nate Diaz, who has only beaten McGregor at 170 in the last few years.
I’m not holding anything against him, it’s just, to be honest, I haven’t been offered him. But I haven’t declined him. But I also don’t feel sorry for him, I’ve also been in four number one contenders, quote-unquote fights, that it wasn’t if I won, it was if my opponent won, they were given a title shot. I was supposed to fight Johny Hendricks, I didn’t sit around for 18 months. I was injured, took 6 to 8 months to recover, I was scheduled to fight Johny Hendricks, didn’t show up.
Then after Robbie and Carlos fought in January, they called me that night and told me I was fighting next for the title. So in my mind, I was waiting on a date. I wasn’t waiting around for a fight. They told me I was fighting. And I was waiting to see when Robbie would be ready to fight me. And then it didn’t happen, so both things are outside of my control. A lot of the fans don’t need to know those things, but when you hear, “Oh you waited around for 18 months” I don’t think that’s what happened.
When I fought Kelvin, they said if Kelvin beat me, he was going to fight for the title. If Carlos would have beat me, we all know he would have fight for the title. If Johnny would have beat me, he would have fought for a title. So, it’s just kinda a hard time, even when I fought Gastelum, I was told that the winner of that fight was going to win a world title. Then that same week, I was told: “Hey, changed my mind.” So that’s at the end of four different fights that had number one contendership written over them, I just don’t feel sorry for these guys.
I’ve been out here, I’ve been doing this thing for a while, I’ve been paving my own lane, if they can match someone to fight me, it is what it is. But at the end of the day, I’m not gonna not entertain other fights that are gonna pay me. I already proved I’m the toughest, the best. My resume speaks for itself, so why would I not try to seek a fight that’s going to pay me two to three times more? You talking six versus seven, multiple seven figures. I would be a complete idiot not to at least see if there’s a possibility when you got DC going up, you got Dillashaw trying to go down, you got Conor doing whatever he wants to do, you got all these different divisions, but people are flopping around, Bisping fights Georges. These are fights with people making millions of dollars. Why do I need to go out and prove, “Okay, won it again.” I just fought three number one contenders back to back. Who else has done that? Nobody.
And so the subtext of this, what you’re describing, is the further devaluation of the belt. You’re the champion, but don’t you feel like it’s almost like you’re just the dude who gets the more pay per view points? Like that’s what the belt actually is?
Nah, I mean, not at all. A fight with me probably already is going to be a main event. It may not get the push and drive that other fights get, I did the same thing with Wonderboy. I’m not complaining because I have been on some phenomenal cards. I’m on a historical, record-breaking UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. I was blessed to be on that card, I was blessed to be on the card with Jon Jones versus Daniel Cormier. I’m not complaining. You know, I’ve been truly blessed and have to be thankful to the UFC for allowing me to fight on these specific cards where I was able to make some decent money. But at the same token, I’ve experienced those issues before and I’ve also fallen to UFC 209 and made a fourth of the amount of money that I made when I fought at 205. So as a businessman, and in this sport of prizefighting and fighting for a prize, they all gonna get it.
Everybody’s gonna get the hands, it don’t matter when they do, they might get it the next fight, it might be the fight after that. It’s not that I’m not trying to fight anybody. Everybody’s gonna get it. But when do I fight ’em? When does it make the most sense for me to fight ’em so I can maximize every single time? If it’s RDA, then it’s RDA. If it’s Nick, then it’s Nick. If it’s Nate, then it’s Nate. If it’s George, then it’s George. If it’s Conor, then it’s Conor. If it’s Usman, Guzman, whoever the hell is next. One by one, they all is gonna get it. But it is a sport about timing.
Georges St-Pierre came back and fought Bisping and fought for a middleweight title at the perfect time. You think he wanted to fight Yoel Romero or Chris Weidman or Luke Rockhold? Maybe Robert Whittaker, possibly, but I guarantee you the Jacares and the bigger more explosive middleweights, he wouldn’t have came back and tried to fight them. Why didn’t he come back and return to fight me?
When it comes to marketing yourself, do you think maybe fans don’t see the bigger picture here?
I know what to do for the fans.
All I gotta do is proclaim that I’ll fight anybody, anytime, go out there and just swing like a goddamn bat out of hell. Get in the bloody bash wars, find a way to squeak it out at the very end. Eddie Alvarez and Gaethje or similar to Forrest Griffin versus Stephan Bonnar or Diego Sanchez versus Gilbert Melendez, one of those types of fights. Which are very risky, obviously, somebody’s going down most likely. And then talk a lotta shit, wear a clean suit, be overly arrogant and cocky and pull up in a Rolls Royce. That’s all I gotta do, I know the formula.
But guess what, that ain’t what got me here. That ain’t what I’m in this sport for. So I’m staying true to what I am and who I am and if I leave some money on the table, if I don’t understand that the current time’s underappreciated, at that moment of the sport cause it’s change. What people like in fighting changes every cycle. There might come a time where people appreciate what I’ve done. When I was first fighting, the cycle was “Tyron Woodley’s a stud, he’s the number one fighter in the sport, he has a great future, he’s gonna be a champion, he’s All-American guy, he’s well-spoken, he’s a family guy, college graduate, All-American wrestler.” You don’t hear guys getting praise or respect with those type of accolades anymore. Here it is, “Oh my god, did you see what he said on Twitter”, you know what I mean? The table is just set a tad bit different.
So are you trying to maintain those, that kind of higher set of values as champion? Is that in the back of your mind as a motivation?
No, I’m just real. I’m just who I am. Sometimes I’m gonna say that I’m gonna whoop your ass and I really mean that. And I’m not shy to say it. Sometimes it’s going to get to a point where, you know, I feel like, you know, I don’t want to stoop to someone’s level. And I don’t have to, because I’ve already proven I’m tough. Sometimes it’s a point where I’m going to knock you out in 46 seconds like I did with Robbie Lawler and sometimes I might be trying to finish you and you run into a guy named Stephen Thompson that don’t wanna get knocked out or don’t want to get submitted. And he really, really wanted to win, but he just so happened to not be as good as I am.
So that’s what I’m okay with and I fight a style where everybody knows that any moment of that fight, somebody can go down and be down until the referee come get ’em. So I already have the fight style, I already have the intelligence, I already got the resume to do what I need to do in this sport for a very long time. So I don’t think I need to change much more, you know, maybe even if fans don’t like me here, the outward negotiation publicly, on Twitter, maybe those comments can be kept the same for the UFC, maybe I should not say anything. Then everybody wanna fight me and then behind doors, I’ll tell my moves. I told the UFC, “Alright, let’s do this fight, let’s do it at this price, alright well let’s do that fight then.” I can do that, definitely, and maybe that’s a knock on me from the UFC standpoint.
To that point, even if the fans hate you, they’re more than likely to watch you. It’s just that you don’t want them to be indifferent, right?
You gotta realize I haven’t fought since July. Show me the last week something in the media hasn’t been talked about me. Whether it’s TMZ, whether it’s FOX, whether it’s me going back and forth with Dana, whether it’s me talking about Conor, whether it’s me talking about Dana White. 99% of your page is about me. You need to check your man card. You giving me plugs, you giving me props, and I’m not reciprocating. I’m not gonna ask your 22,000 followers. You got RDA talking, you got everybody talking about fighting me. So people either wanna see me knock out Colby Covington ’cause he’s the biggest queef on earth or they wanna see me lose because I’m the fighter that’s been too picky and think he’s something special, he thinks he’s some brand and he ain’t a pay per view spot. Well, people just wanna see what is going to happen. Nobody’s indifferent. Everybody’s strong-willed on one end. And that’s kind of what you want.
In the Lawler fight, you go in there and you knock out Robbie in 40 something seconds, right? But then, versus Maia, it’s a 25-minute war, you’re stuffing takedowns, you’re neutralizing offense. Same with Thompson, but on the feet. When you go into a fight like that, are you game planning to knock out Robbie right away?
In all my fights, my whole game plan is to neutralize everything that they do. Not to allow them to do what they do so well. And at some point in that fight, I’m gonna find a moment to knock ’em out. You ask my coaches, we never go in there trying not to knock somebody out. You know what I mean? Sometimes it takes a little longer. Fortunate for me, the Robbie opening came really quick. I level changed, faked the legs, he dropped his head, he was a little timid, he normally storms guys, he was afraid of me, and I saw it. And I said, “Okay, now it’s time to go.” When I see it, I go. I always go, you know what I mean?
In the Thompson fight, the Thompson fight is really the same fight if you really think about it. I knocked him down, two or three times each fight, and then I ground and pounded him one round of each fight, and it was a close fight each time. He didn’t want to get knocked out. He’s the one that is karate space fighter, he’s a point fighter. Though he was pressing forward, how many risks did he take? How did he come forward? Did he try to come and take me down? Oh, so maybe it’s not that dumb of an idea for me not to try to outpoint him. So you just gotta look at each fight for what it was, every fight had different circumstances, but my goals are always the same. Take away what they do well, overwhelm them, speed and power, and when I get an opening, take their damn head off.
Demain Maia I got a punch early, I also tore my up my labrum, which a lot of people … Like right now, I’m sitting Pensacola, Florida, in a lobby, doing an interview with you. I flew in this morning, to have stem cells and PRP injected into my shoulder that I had surgery on, and I just had surgery eight to 10 weeks ago. What the hell, you think I’m gonna turn around and fight next week? And I fought a fight against one of the best, if not the best, grappler that’s ever fought in the UFC who was on his way to having 20 wins, which would’ve tied for the record, with Georges and Bisping and all those other guys and Cowboy. It would’ve tied their record and he has taken down the last 12 opponents. He tried to take me down 12 times, how do I wage in war a striking battle against someone that’s consistently on your legs? You gotta address that first. I can’t just swing in his face and just get the hit on my legs, get taken down and tapped out, that would be an idiot move. Sometimes the fans want to see you fight dumb. I’m sorry, I’m never gonna fight dumb.
Speaking on your coaches, I have a Duke Roufus-based question. All rumors point to your teammate CM Punk possibly fighting at UFC 225 in Chicago. How do you feel about that? Have you been in the gym recently? Have you seen him at all?
Yeah, I see him sometime every week or so. We laugh at stuff on Snapchat. He’s been very vocal about fighting and, you know, he was asking me about some different types of opponents that, you know, game planning for those guys. CM Punk’s a workhorse man, I don’t care what anybody says. You got something to say about CM Punk, you got something to say about me. Anybody goes in with the kinda time that he put in, at his age, not having a true boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu whatever background and he comes in there with just a love of the sport, training in jiu-jitsu with a freaking work ethic man. He is a workhorse. So, I don’t know who he’s fighting, I don’t know if it’s confirmed that he is fighting, it would be very silly to go to Chicago and not have him on the card. So I would say that those rumors could have some merit behind it, but I have not talked to him to confirm that.
I love the idea of him fighting Mayweather.
I think they do that. I think they should do a fight.
Yeah. It’s a damn good fight.
I think it’s easy for him.