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Tyron Woodley: Fighting First, Hollywood Second

"This is Tyron Woodley. This is my fight style, and it’s going to give problems to everyone in the welterweight class." - Tyron Woodley

UFC welterweight Tyron WoodleyIf you go see Olympus Has Fallen this weekend, keep an eye out for Tyron Woodley. Amidst the explosions and gunfire and Morgan Freeman being Morgan Freeman, the UFC welterweight makes his acting debut as a Secret Service agent in the “bad guys have taken over the White House” action flick.

And yes, that’s also him as a sniper on the roof too.

“I’m Secret Service, so when you see those limos pulling up in the trailer, that’s me standing there burning up in the Shreveport sun,” Woodley admitted, discussing his new side gig and potential post-fight career. “I’m SWAT, so I come out of the White House blasting and get shot up again. I’m a sniper, and I’m also a DC cop, so when the trash trucks blow through those police cars, I’m the one that’s running trying not to get hit by the car. I got my little test of danger in this movie.

“I die a lot,” he laughed, “but they had to have me die soon because I have a distinct face. I don’t have any lines or anything, but they said, `Your face is so distinct and you’ve got a couple close-ups, so if we use those clips, we can’t have you get shot on the lawn when the explosion goes off and then be the guy on the roof 10 minutes later as a different person.’”

Woodley has been interested in testing the Hollywood waters for some time, but wanted to wait for the right time. The St. Louis, Missouri native came away from his UFC debut unscathed, having earned a knockout win over veteran Jay Hieron in just 36 seconds at UFC 156 in early February. In shape and with an opening in his calendar, “The Chosen One” saw the chance he was looking for, took it, and now he’s caught the acting bug.

“This was a perfect time: I just got off a fight, had some free time, and I had the opportunity to get in there and mix it up. Some friends of mine – Arnold Chon, my speed and power training coach for a lot of the powerful, speed combinations that I used – he’s been a stunt guy for quite some time now. He got me involved with it, and also Lin Oeding, who introduced me to Yves Edwards in 2006.

“These guys have been in the business for a long time, and I’ve been bugging them for a long time to get me in there because I want to see if I like it or not. It was a great experience. I did that one. I had a chance to do another one here recently called Blunt Force, which is just a small film, but I had a chance to do that. That one I actually have one or two lines in, and Dan Henderson’s in that one too, so that was cool that they brought in two MMA guys. I have a couple opportunities for two or three more here after my next fight too.”

Rest assured, fight fans, the former Strikeforce standout isn’t planning on hanging up his four-ounce gloves to make a permanent move to Tinsel Town.

“I definitely want to focus on making it a post-fight career. It’s easy to get out there, make a good weekly rate, have fun doing it, and have an opportunity to make some residuals afterwards, but for me, I think the people that are in the fight game have basically done that the wrong way - they’ve made it a career too soon, and it kind of hurt their fighting.

“I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to make sure I focus on achieving my goals, getting to a world title, and then from the point when I retire, it would definitely be something I was interested in.”

With Olympus Has Fallen in theatres and Woodley having already enjoyed a small premiere with his friends and family at his American Top Team Evolution gym in Rock Hills, the 11-1 welterweight contender has his shifted his focus back to his current career, and his upcoming fight with Jake Shields at UFC 161.

The pairing came together in the midst of the mad dash to fill the vacancy opposite Carlos Condit when Rory MacDonald was sidelined in advance of UFC 158.

Rewind to the UFC 156 post-fight press conference, where Woodley informed UFC President Dana White (and the assembled media) that his passport was up-to-date, and should anyone get injured on the way to the welterweight showcase in Montreal, he’d be ready to step up.

When MacDonald was forced out, both Woodley and Shields started lobbying for the opportunity to replace him, but the UFC opted to elevate Johny Hendricks, and back-fill his place opposite Jake Ellenberger with Nate Marquardt. Even with the new line-up established, Woodley still pressed for a way to make it onto the card.

“(Shields) was asking hard for Carlos Condit, and I thought, `Well if he’s going to ask for Condit on March 16, and I was trying to fight Condit on March 16, we should fight.’” explained the former University of Missouri wrestling standout. “I was really pushing for us to fight on March 16. If you’re going to be in shape to fight Condit on that day, you should be in shape to fight me on that day, and I think it would have been better than the Mike Ricci fight.

“The Mike Ricci fight, in my opinion, shouldn’t have been on the pay-per-view,” he continued. “They could have just went all out (with welterweights). Jordan Mein was freakin’ amazing that night, Bobby Voelker and (Patrick) Cote had an entertaining fight; the welterweights really held it down on that card, and they could have replaced that bout right there and had me and Jake Shields open up the pay-per-view portion, and I think fans would have gotten their money’s worth.”

While the chance to fight in Montreal didn’t materialize, the bout with Shields did, and the two Strikeforce alums will square off when the UFC debuts in Winnipeg this summer. Not only is Woodley looking forward to the matchup, but he’s equally excited to compete before the rabid sports fans who will fill the MTS Centre on June 15.

“I know Winnipeg is a great city and has fans that really support not just UFC, but sports in general. I think we’re going be received well by the fans, and I think it’s going to be a great environment and a great atmosphere to fight in.

“For me, I always have my eyes set on the guys at the top. It’s nothing personal; it’s not that I think he’s a chump and I can walk over him. When he was in Strikeforce, he was the champ, so my eyes are always on the top. It’s the same thing with Nick Diaz; I always envision getting to the top. I’ve already been game planning, thinking about these opponents for years. He wanted to fight Condit, like I said before, and there was an opportunity for him to be in shape for that fight, so I said, `Let’s do it.’

“It’s a classic style matchup,” said Woodley of the pairing with Shields before getting into a quick breakdown of how the two match up. “His grappling is going to be better than mine. My striking is going to be better than his. My power’s going to be better. My speed is going to be better. He has a great chin, so he’ll get that chin tested, and I think all those things added up make for a great fight. He’s fought for the UFC title before, so for me, it’s a great resume builder.”

While his win over Hieron last month might have been many UFC fans’ first introduction to Woodley, the 30-year-old has paid his dues, having faced a steady diet of under-appreciated, but exceptionally talented, competition under the Strikeforce banner before making the move into the Octagon.

Wins over the likes of Paul Daley, Tarec Saffiedine, and Jordan Mein is why Woodley was so fond of saying he earned his way to a title shot in the now-defunct organization. Now that the final two in that trio are starting to garner greater recognition, Woodley knows that continued strong showings in the UFC will send people back to his resume, where they’ll see a fighter who is very much deserving of a place in the upper echelon of the welterweight division.

“A lot of people don’t realize it until they look back in hindsight. People don’t realize that Jordan Mein didn’t look like he did against Dan Miller or how he did against Tyler Stinson (against me). The kid’s phenomenal.

“So me beating him, beating Tarec Saffiedine – if you watched these guys against somebody else, these guys are showcasing great skills, and none of these guys were able to do that to me. I won every striking war between Tarec, Paul Daley, and Jordan, and now people see what I mean when I said I had to earn my title shot. I had to go out and fight Andre Galvao, who is one of the best grapplers on Planet Earth. If I slip on a banana peel he wraps his arms around my neck and it might be a wrap. I think it’s just good that people can go back, look at my resume, and see the people that I’ve beaten.”

His debut performance in the UFC earned high marks, and produced raised expectations for his sophomore effort, but Woodley isn’t the least bit fazed. In fact, he welcomes the attention, and intends to keep delivering the same kind of performances each and every time he steps into the cage until he reaches his goal of becoming UFC welterweight champion.

“I’m making a statement to all the welterweights, I’m making a statement to the fans, and I’m making a statement to the boss man that he can expect this from now on. I may not knock everybody out, but I can try to, and if I can’t knock you out, I can slam you down, and do some punishment from the top.

“I just want (Dana White) and my coaches and everybody that trains me to know, `You guys have put a lot of work in with me, I train hard, and I possess a lot of skills that I feel God has gifted me with, and I’m gonna use them, every time, from now on.’ This is Tyron Woodley. This is my fight style, and it’s going to give problems to everyone in the welterweight class.

“From now on, I just focus on making it stronger, and doing more of what I didn’t get to do last time. After Jake Shields, I should definitely be in the top 10 in the world, and then after my next fight, I should be in the top 5. And then after that, I should be the next person fighting for the world title.”

Then, and only then, will he think about really pursuing his acting career.