Even before Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit stepped into the Octagon and co-wrote an instant classic at UFC 195, Tyron Woodley knew the title shot he had been promised last fall had the possibility of being rescinded.
Once the champion and challenger crossed the threshold into the UFC’s eight-sided proving ground and combined on a Fight of the Year contender just two days into 2016, Woodley was well aware that he would be faced with myriad questions about his place in line and the possibility of an immediate rematch and it didn’t take long for him to make his feelings known.
Seated alongside Karyn Bryant, Kenny Florian and Daniel Cormier on the FS1 desk following the fight, the welterweight title hopeful spoke his mind about running back the championship bout that just concluded when there are competitors that have worked their way to the top of the divisional rankings (hint hint), patiently waiting for their opportunity.
“First off, it was a phenomenal fight and I don’t want to take away from the fight and what a moment it was for the welterweight division and the UFC,” Woodley said a couple days removed from last Saturday’s title clash. “It was an amazing fight and these guys really set the bar for what it means to ‘leave it in the Octagon,’ so I want to say that.
“But I think a fighter like me that has been knocking off Top 10 guy after Top 10 guy, why am I doing it and what is the purpose behind me taking these tough fights (if it’s not to fight for the title)? Why did I call out Carlos Condit? Why did I call out Johny Hendricks?”
More from UFC 195: Miss the fights? Order the UFC 195 replay | Dana White’s UFC 195 verdict | Final results | Post-fight bonus recap | Lawler defends title | Miocic wins quickly, Tumenov and Ortega take longer in main card | ’Mayday’ triumphant in return | Poirier, Tanaka go distance for wins | Watch Backstage interviews: Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit: ‘I might be done’, Stipe Miocic, Albert Tumenov, Brian Ortega, Abel Trujillo, Michael McDonald | Watch Octagon interviews: Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit, Stipe Miocic, Dustin Poirier | Watch: Post-fight press conference highlights | Picture perfect: Best snaps from UFC 195
On resume and ranking, there is no one else in the division that currently stands as a more deserving title challenger than Woodley.
He resides at No. 2 in the rankings and has won four of his last five bouts, including a second-round TKO victory over Condit at UFC 171 nearly two years ago. After losing to Rory MacDonald, the 33-year-old Ferguson, Missouri native picked up back-to-back wins over Dong Hyun Kim and Kelvin Gastelum, agreeing to the latter despite the fact that the former Ultimate Fighter winner arrived on the scales closer to being a middleweight than a welterweight.
His next outing was supposed to be a title eliminator against Johny Hendricks at UFC 192 in Houston, but the former champion’s weight cut went sideways and he was forced out of the bout at the 11th hour, leaving Woodley without a fight, though he did still step on the scale at the Toyota Center in Houston, hitting 170 pounds on the dot.
“I feel like when Johny was unable to make weight, in my mind, that’s a forfeit,” Woodley, who also boasts victories over Josh Koscheck, Jordan Mein, Paul Daley and Tarec Saffiedine, explains. “If it were a wrestling match and he didn’t make weight, it’s a forfeit and I advance. I feel like I’ve advanced, I’m the No. 1 contender in the world and I should get a title shot.
“The fan in me understands why other fans might want to see a rematch, but the fighter in me that is 33 years old, not getting any younger and has been in this talk about the title for so long, it’s like, ‘Man, what am I supposed to do?’ All these rematches put the division on hold and it’s like, ‘What do I do now?’”
One thing Woodley isn’t going to do is engage in a lengthy public campaign in order to make a case for his candidacy as the next title challenger. Following his win over Condit, he, MacDonald and Hector Lombard all took to social media and made their respective cases through various interviews on why they deserved to be the first to face Hendricks, who claimed the vacant title in a bout with Lawler in the UFC 171 main event.
At the time, there wasn’t a consensus top contender and each man could make a viable case for being next in line. As fate would have it, Hendricks required surgery and was shuffled to the sidelines, affording Lawler the opportunity to collect a pair of impressive victories and set up a rematch at UFC 181, where the current champion won the title.
“I want my resume, I want my ranking and what I’ve done in this sport to speak for itself.” -- Tyron Woodley
“I don’t want to do that anymore,” Woodley says of making his case in the media. “I want my resume, I want my ranking and what I’ve done in this sport to speak for itself.”
But rather than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, the University of Missouri alum plans on being proactive about figuring out what comes next in his career, explaining that he wants to have a sit-down discussion with UFC President Dana White to hear from the boss where he fits in the divisional hierarchy and what direction the company is leaning when it comes to the welterweight strap.
“If you want to sit me down and be honest with me, like, ‘Tyron, I know it sucks, but we’re going to run this fight back,’ tell me and let me know what I need to do,” Woodley says, his voice carrying a little more bass than it did earlier in the conversation.
“People always criticize me for picking fights,” he continues. “You’re damn right I pick fights, but who do I pick? Johny Hendricks. Carlos Condit. I’m picking the best guys. I’m asking for guys that are going to push me, make me get out of my comfort zone and train my butt off because they give that anxiety where I know these guys can beat me, but I also know I can beat them.
“I don’t have to prove myself or validate anything or go on this campaign; my resume makes the case, so you can miss me with the silly stuff.”
Few can consider themselves as more deserving than Woodley at the moment and he is hopeful that will be more than enough for him to get the next shot.
“I feel like the right thing to do on merit is to give me the title shot – give a new, fresh individual a chance at UFC gold. If Carlos Condit is the best in the world, he’ll redeem himself. He’ll fight another fight, come back and he will back in that talk for the title – but why not give me the opportunity and get some fresh blood in there?”