Tyron Woodley is no stranger to being a pioneer in the sport of MMA.
No, this is not an athletic achievement but one birthed out from his conscious. As the world is still reeling from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more, he took the first visible stand in MMA to raise awareness.
Tyron Woodley had one simple message for viewers and media today: Black Lives Matter.
— TheMacLife (@Maclifeofficial) September 17, 2020
At a press conference for his fight, this weekend against super instigator Colby “Chaos” Covington, the former welterweight champ made his focus known Marshawn Lynch style.
For every question asked, every answer was the same derivation of “Black Lives Matter”.
It is the first time in MMA history that a fighter, especially of Woodley’s stature, has taken such a bold stance in solidarity with the rest of the social justice focus of the sports world and the world at large.
On Wednesday, during the restart of the PRITTY Left Hook IG Live podcast, now an IG Live series, Woodley was clear on his position when he premiered his Black Lives Matter shirt and red Make Racists Catch The Fade Again hat.
“For the fans and the media, it makes more sense. I think when you look at the fight itself and Colby Covington himself, he utilized my name since 2016-2017. I was the bulk of all his conversations on social media because he wanted to use the skulls and skeletons and the bones that I had in my closet from the people I beat to project himself.”
Covington has used the Make America Great Again slogan and MAGA posturing to propel himself in MMA. He is very aware that MMA is polarized and divided. Black athletes are only cool to the core MMA fan base if they shut up and fight.
For Woodley, Covington’s stance is less political and more oppositional to his brand to create a faux beef that is sellable.
Covington is MMA’s Tekashi 69.
“He built his entire name off of me and after he built his name off of me he went the political angle because he saw what I stood for. So he went on the opposite side thinking it would get my attention. It never got my attention. So what happens now after you get your ass whooped on Saturday and then Trump doesn’t win the election?
“Do you retire now? He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, he didn’t think that far down the road. What is his gimmick now? What is this setting him up for, its not setting him up for anything because nobody really cares. For the amount of time he spent on this, he should have two or three million followers, he don’t.”
Woodley, a top athlete for the UFC and the sport, began to catch some flack from the fans after he took his initial stance against police brutality and then as an athlete advocate who exposed disparities in the pay scale for Black athletes in the UFC.
M.M.A. or M.A.G.A.?
UFC President Dana White delivered a speech in Washington, D.C. at the Republican National Convention for his friend, Donald Trump. It was a continuation of support from “Uncle Dana” who did the same for Trump back in 2016 for his first Presidential run.
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) September 17, 2020
Mixed martial arts is a hotbed for the propaganda of Trumpism.
Covington has visited the White House and made the red MAGA hat his heel symbol.
Cuban-American journeyman turned star, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal was thrilled when Trump attended his breakout fight against Nate Diaz at Madison Square Garden at UFC 244 in late 2019. He was supposed to visit the President at the White House as well after winning the novelty “Baddest Mother F*&%ker” belt but has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even heavyweight sensation, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis took the time to address Trump from the Octagon at UFC 244 in the post-fight interview.
— Borrachinha Depot (@FullContactMTWF) September 18, 2020
“Shout out to that boy Donald Trump. I know everything ain’t going so good in the White House, but you gotta turn that sh*t around in 2020.”
Trump is a UFC fixture with only former UFC welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley publicly offering a dissenting opinion. Back in 2016, after the killing of Michael Brown in his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri, Woodley didn’t appreciate Trump’s characterizations of the police brutality.
“You ain’t never been to Ferguson and that’s where I’m from. He gotta keep Ferguson out his mouth so he can keep my fist out of his mouth.”
There have been white supremacists admitted as licensed cornermen in the UFC and never has Dana White checked his fighters for turning his organization into a circus for partisan politics.
Instead, he is silent on issues of social justice and racial unrest, even though like the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and NFL, he thrives off the back of Black athletic talent.
“I don’t like the people that are all of a sudden Black now. I don’t like people who can take a photographer to a protest and all of a sudden you’re Black now.
“I feel like Muhammad Ali believed in what was right at that time for him. He lost millions of dollars because of it. I believe in what’s right for me, its never a question of where I stand.”
*Colby Covington builds his whole gimmick around politics*
Ring wing MMA fans: Hahaha, I love this guy!
*Tyron Woodley says black lives matter multiple times in the presser*
Ring wing MMA fans: WHY CAN'T HE JUST LEAVE POLITICS OUT OF MMA?! pic.twitter.com/00PqnLAbrP
— The Combat Hub (@combathubreal) September 18, 2020
Tyron Woodley is the lone voice in a crowded room who is bringing light to social justice and police brutality while MMA is focused on partisan politics from the top down.
It is now that the community must stand by Tyron, win or lose, for his bravery in the face of adversity and for challenging a system that has yet to express its support for its combatants of color.