For UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, the path to stardom and the title belt he now holds was a grueling trek.
Almost 10 years after he made his mixed martial arts debut, Woodley now defends the crown in arguably the UFC's most competitive division on the biggest stage in the history of the sport - Madison Square Garden.
And the champ is going to stop and smell the roses Saturday before he tries to defeat Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
“This is a dream come true. I used to fight in bars where the smoke would go into the ring as I was fighting,” Woodley said Wednesday at the UFC 205 Open Workouts. “So to fight in Madison Square Garden – I’m going to tear this place down Saturday night.”
Woodley is coming off one of the most destructive finishes in the history of the division at UFC 201 when he knocked out former champion Robbie Lawler in just two minutes. It was the fastest finish in welterweight championship history, but the champ still isn’t getting the respect he feels he deserves.
In the co-main event on the greatest fight card ever assembled, Woodley is a 2-to-1 underdog against Wonderboy. But the slight isn’t bothering “The Chosen One.”
“They like me to fuel my fire and I prove them wrong every single time. I’ve been the underdog my last five fights and I’ve won them all,” Woodley said.
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The 10-year voyage as a professional has led Woodley to the top of the sport. He’s been here for a few months and he likes the scenery.
At UFC 205, Woodley plans to prove the doubters wrong once again and stake his claim as the best welterweight on the planet.
“It’s my time. I’m not losing to anybody,” Woodley said. “My last loss was my last loss and I didn’t come to Madison Square Garden to lose my belt. … It’s going to be pure domination, pure violence. “
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC