UFC Exclusive: Former Champ Tyron Woodley Talks Return During COVID-19

Dana White’s bet on himself during the COVID-19 pandemic is still paying off as Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley headlines the next event this Saturday.

Woodley, is still the No. 1-ranked contender in the UFC’s welterweight division. He was originally suppose dto face Leon Edwards, however, with international travel restrictions in place for the British Edwards, the fight was cancelled.

Woodley now faces Gilbert Burns in Saturday night’s main event at the newly built UFC Apex in Las Vegas. This will be the promotion’s first return to Las Vegas since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the globe.

No fans will be in attendance, just like the three events they pulled off in Jacksonville, Florida.

We talked with “T-Wood” ahead of this weekend’s scrap.

TSL: How is Missouri during COVID-19 and amid these national police brutality cases?

TW: When you look at St. Louis and East St. Louis, Illinois are always battling for number one on the murder rate. The number one in the country, always. hey have to be gentle the way they bring the news to us; you can’t say you’re locking us down in St. Louis because that’s going to immediately make us think, loot, riot, crime, drama, and its like somebody is taking something away from you. So when you restrict the ability to leave the house to go into different stores, people that already might not have been making enough money as it is, now they can’t really work. Food is limited and all these different things start chaos.

TSL: Talk Training For Leon Edwards And Were You In Los Angeles or Missouri?

TW: I’ve been in Missouri the entire quarantine. Im out in L.A. half the time and Missouri half the time. Was in Thailand getting ready for the fight came to St. Louis to tell my kids peace out before the fight. A few days later before I was about to go to the airport, the UFC told me not to get on the flight for Leon Edwards. A few days later the UFC called me and said, ‘Leon Edwards doesn’t want to fly to the U.S. because he doesn’t feel comfortable. The UFC called and are like, ‘who do you want to fight?’ I’m like, I don’t know who I want to fight.

Then I looked at the Top 10, I want to fight the number two guy, Colby Covington because he’s been talking mad shit and he don’t want to fight. Now I feel grossly inconvenienced. Im a 5-time world champ. At the end of the day it got wound down to some opponents with no recognition. For me to fight a person like that its a lose lose situation. If I lose to them they catapult and i’m the number one ranked welterweight. If I beat them but don’t stomp them, then they’re going to get credit for hanging with me. If I beat them the way that i’m supposed to beat them, oh you were supposed to beat them. So if there’s no upside, I need a bag, I need you to pay me more.

There’s only two of us that won four world titles in less than a year: Jon Jones did it first and I was the second one. Nobody else has did it. Four world titles against true actual number one contenders. Two of those fights were stoppages. One fight was a draw against a specialist that nobody could figure out and I can guarantee you nobody on the roster can beat Stephen “Wonderboy” twice.

TSL: What factors led to the Kamaru Usman loss?

TW: I had a lot going on. I had a lot on my plate and a lot of personal stuff going on. But the moral of the story is that I didn’t give up. I didn’t win the fight but if you would have seen the type of weight cut I went through. If you would have seen the two times I was sick during camp with antibiotics or when it was negative 50 degrees in Milwaukee where I was training. I did the Wild’ N Out show, I did Jeopardy, I did Hawaii Five-O, I had a whole album drop and then I performed live with Wiz Khalifa in St. Louis. Those were all moments I wanted to take advantage of but when i think about the travel, and then me being sick, the sleep, the drama that was in my life and the weight cut. Usman also didn’t really give me the motivation. I really didn’t have smoke with Kamaru Usman. I mean I joked with him a little bit about trying to be cool but if you look at who’s a better striker consistently.

Who’s a better power puncher, who’s a better explosive person that covers the ground, who has better ground and pound, who has a higher fight I.Q. He fights well, he’s consistent, but when you look at all those categories, I out check him in all of them. I just wasn’t there that night. Looking at the way I look, which I haven’t gone back to watch the whole fight, but the clips I saw i’m like, who the f*%k is that? I let that motherf&%$er do that to me. If that was me fighting me, I would have knocked myself out in the first round. He couldn’t finish me so that tells me we are not the same.

People that are new to being at the top don’t realize how quickly the narrative can change on you. How quickly do we change our perspective? It only takes one loss. Think about “Stylebender we gassed him up way too early. We flooded him with diesel.

TSL: Will MMA ever be marketing correctly to the culture?

TW: It’s not only possible but you’re talking to one of the only ones the UFC can utilize for that. I told them if you want the barbershop, I can bring you the barbershop. Floyd Mayweather retired. So now that boxing fans are watching MMA and MMA fans are watching boxing. This has been the agenda for me the whole time. When you think about Conor he’s such a great businessman because he brought the whole country of Ireland. I’m trying to bring the whole hood to MMA becuase mixed martial arts, today its a little different, but if you would have asked me that question 2-3 years ago its a whole bunch of Caucasian fighters beating the shit out of each other with a sprinkle of brothers.

The urban culture was into boxing but there was time when boxing was struggling. UFC is a sport that an inner city kid can afford to participate in. He can’t afford to play tennis, he can’t afford to do golf and some of these other sports aren’t in his budget. But mixed martial arts is in his budget. We have to educate the community and the culture on what mixed martial arts is and why it’s such a unique sport. There is a position for everybody.





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