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.