If you want to talk whirlwinds, just take a look at the UFC career of Tyron Woodley thus far. In a busy 2013, the St. Louis native fought three times, won two by knockout, and put himself in position for the biggest fight of his career this Saturday night in Dallas: a UFC 171 co-main event against Carlos Condit. Win in impressive fashion, and who knows, he could be the next man to challenge for the welterweight title.
Not bad for three fights, yet as Woodley admits, he hasn’t exactly had time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
“To be honest, I really haven’t,” he laughs. “It’s been so fast. I’ve got to block those things out and focus on the task at hand.”
That means fight, fight, fight, and train, train, train, with the end goal obviously being to wear a championship belt around his waist. But if you think this is all part of some master plan hatched up by “The Chosen One,” he says that things are proceeding a bit ahead of schedule.
“I think I’m coming in a little bit stronger and a little bit faster than what I expected,” said Woodley. “Coming off a loss in my last Strikeforce fight (against Nate Marquardt), I felt like I was shot down the ladder a little bit, but I’ve been fortunate to be matched up with some killers and going out there and having good performances. Even in defeat, I fought Jake Shields, who’s a former Strikeforce champ and a former title contender, (Josh) Koscheck, who’s a former title contender, and even Jay Hieron, who won titles in the IFL and Affliction and was undefeated in Strikeforce. So I never really had an easy fight. So I think by coming in and fighting those riskier opponents, I put myself in a position where now I’m fighting against Carlos Condit, and I’m right in position for a title.”
The decision loss to Shields last June was a controversial one, and both Koscheck and Hieron were dispatched in less than a round. It made it clear that Woodley was a force to be reckoned with in the UFC, and at 31, he feels a sense of urgency to make the most of every opportunity.
“I seem pretty sure of myself – not in a cocky manner, but just the fact that I believe I’m one of the top welterweights,” he said. “And not just verbally, but I’m willing to actually go out there and fight these top guys and prove that I am. I think I’m young enough in this sport that I’ve got room to grow, but I’m old enough not to do anything for the hell of it. I don’t have the clock of a 21 to 23-year-old where I can go out there and make mistakes and have different rebirths in my career. I’ve got to get it done. I’m approaching a point in my MMA career in the next two to three years where I’ll start to peak and be the best fighter I’ll be. And I would like to be the champion at that time. I would like to be sitting on the throne as I’m peaking as one of the best fighters in the world.”
Yet while he’s going in with top-level competition night in and night out (and frankly, he was doing the same thing throughout his Strikeforce career, where he beat the likes of Tarec Saffiedine, Jordan Mein, Paul Daley, and Andre Galvao), he still feels that when it comes to experience, he’s giving away a lot to the people he’s fighting.
“I’m lacking in experience, so I’ve got to make it up in hard work,” he said. “Everybody I fight has got 30-40 fights and I’ve got 14, so I have to keep that urgency. And when I’m fighting, I’m kind of going for broke and I think fans can appreciate that.”
It is a different Woodley these days from the one that was criticized in Strikeforce for relying on his world-class wrestling too much. In the UFC, he’s been swinging for the fences, and landing more often than not. So when the fight with Condit was announced, fans were more than pleased with the matchup. Woodley liked it too.
“I think Carlos Condit’s nickname suits him,” he said of “The Natural Born Killer.” “Out of all the UFC fighters to watch, he’s probably my favorite because you can never count that guy out. He beat Rory MacDonald with seven seconds left and he always turns it on in the later rounds. He just has a style that puts me in a position to be in a Fight of the Night. And when guys bring it like that, it makes me fight harder. When the heat’s on, I usually rise to the occasion and I match that intensity.”
Intense is a good way to describe Woodley at the moment, both in and out of the Octagon. There’s a sense of purpose, little – if any – wasted motion, and it’s almost as if he won’t stop moving forward until he get what he wants. That’s what you want to see from any fighter, particularly one at the top of the game, where it can get easy to slack off. He talks about a former opponent and current training partner in Mein.
“I’ve got to keep these young killers around me because once you get comfortable and complacent, it’s easy for one of these guys to slide up and take you out,” said Woodley, who isn’t about to get caught napping.
“I’m in this to be a world champion and the absolute best welterweight who’s ever done it, and fighting a guy like this (Condit), you know what the implications are. You know what it means for yourself, your career, your family, your gym, and your team. This is a life-changing fight and moment, and all I have to do is go out there and fight as hard as I can for 15 minutes, and I put myself right in position to be one step away from reaching one of my goals.”
Tyron Woodley's One Track Mind
"I’m in this to be a world champion and the absolute best welterweight who’s ever done it, and fighting a guy like this (Condit), you know what the implications are." - Tyron Woodley