Prior to UFC 228, welterweight kingpin Tyron Woodley was one of the most criticized and undervalued champions in the promotion.
After three dull title defenses, with one being scored a draw and the other a majority decision, fans were reluctant to give Woodley any credit for his accomplishments and dismissed his calls for more respect from the UFC.
Well, that all changed on Saturday night when ‘T-Wood’ steamrolled Darren Till in the UFC 228 main event and reminded the MMA world exactly what he’s capable of.
Woodley’s longtime coach, former UFC vet Din Thomas, believes fans were frustrated with Woodley’s performances because they knew he was capable of so much more.
“I think that people are starting to realize,” Thomas said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, per MMA Fighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti. “Here’s what I think, I’m going to be honest with you, I think that people were just upset with Tyron. I don’t think that they ever didn’t think he could fight. I think they were just upset with him because they know what he’s capable of. I mean, up until the second Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson fight — Tyron was just tearing people up until that fight. Then those two fights, I think he just disappointed people and they were upset with him, and that’s when they started really badmouthing him. And the fact that he was coming out and just kinda complaining about his position in the game, I think that really just kinda exacerbated everybody’s view of him, and just, ‘You know what, we don’t like this guy.’
“But I think his performance on Saturday and his stance now that, ‘Listen, I don’t care who you put in front of me, I’m just going to fight,’ I think that’s what people want from Tyron and I think that’s what turned everybody’s opinion of him around.”
Had Woodley lost to Till, Thomas believes the 36-year-old would have been better off retiring. Not because of a lack of talent, but because the UFC would have made it extremely difficult for Woodley to ever claw his way back to a title shot.
Woodley has a somewhat turbulent relationship with Dana White, who immediately left the American Airlines Center after Woodley defended his title against Till. White didn’t bother to show up at the post-fight press conference to congratulate ‘The Chosen One’.
“I was saying that if Tyron loses that fight, he might as well retire,” Thomas continued. “He was in a do-or-die position, because they’re going to push him way to the back. If Tyron loses that fight, they would’ve never given him a rematch. He would’ve had to fight every top guy coming up. His next fight would’ve been (Kamaru) Usman and then Leon Edwards and then Santiago Ponzinibbio. He would never have been in a position to get back to that title, so he cannot lose.”
With his fourth title defense under his belt, Woodley is continually maturing as a champion and has vowed to ‘shut up and fight’ rather than let the critics and negativity affect him.
“But I think now is a time where Tyron has matured, he has evolved as a person and a martial artist,” Thomas said. “He’s starting to become more mature and say, ‘You know what, this may be a time where I have to just give to the fans what they want, and that’s for me to just shut up and fight.’”
It’s expected that Woodley will go on to defend his title against top contender Colby Covington before the end of the year, possibly at the upcoming UFC 230 PPV on Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden.