TORONTO — There are a lot of people who want to know when Tyron Woodley’s next title defense will be.
Count Dana White among them.
The UFC president spoke about the welterweight championship situation during a media scrum Friday at the ceremonial weigh-ins for UFC 231 at Scotiabank Arena and when asked who was primarily responsible for the division title currently being on hold, he put forth just one name.
“Woodley,” White said. “When is Woodley ready to fight anybody ever?”
Woodley’s last title defense, a second-round submission win over Darren Till at UFC 228, occurred just three months ago, but minor injuries have kept him on the shelf and out of a presumed matchup with rival Colby Covington.
When it was mentioned how recent Woodley’s last fight was, White offered an exasperated response.
“And it took us forever to get him to fight that fight,” White said. “Guy never wants to fight. You want to be a world champion, but you don’t want to fight anybody. That’s a problem.”
Following Woodley’s win over Demian Maia in July of last year, he took time off to deal with a shoulder injury and the UFC created an interim title in his absence that was won by Covington at UFC 225. That seemed to put the two on a collision course, but Woodley instead went on to face Till, and Covington has not competed since.
While White placed much of the onus on Woodley for the matchmaking complications, he made it clear officials aren’t waiting for either man to make up their minds.
“You know what happens? The world moves on without you, boys,” White said. “That’s what happens. We’ll see how this thing plays out. Obviously, I’ve got to deal with this down here and I’ll go home Saturday night after the fight and we’ll get this stuff figured out next week.”
Given the recent announcement that an upcoming flyweight championship main event bout between Henry Cejudo and T.J. Dillashaw has been moved from UFC 233 on Jan. 26 to the Brooklyn event on Jan. 19 and several of the other titles are either set to be or were recently contested, it stands to reason that a welterweight championship bout could be slotted in as the new UFC 233 headliner in Anaheim, Calif.
However, White said that it is “not a lock” and that much of it has to do with waiting for a Woodley thumb injury to clear up. White then implied that Woodley could be doing more to fight through his setbacks, using Conor McGregor as an example.
“You have to understand, I know guys like Conor McGregor, I know all the guys behind the scenes,” White said. “Don’t you guys remember the thing when Conor McGregor said, ‘Who needs a thumb? You don’t even need a thumb to fight.’ Conor fought with so many injuries that it’s ridiculous. Even times that Conor doesn’t say it publicly.
“So when you’re used to dealing with guys like that and you get a guy with a thumb, and it’s not just one thing, it’s always something with Woodley.”
White and Woodley have had a love-hate relationship for years, with White praising Woodley’s abilities while also being critical of some of his performances and his public exchanges with the company president.
One of the outlets that Woodley regularly uses to vent his frustrations is The Hollywood Beatdown, a program he hosts for TMZ, and his comments made through the tabloid site have particularly stuck in White’s craw.
“He just came out on his real job, TMZ, and said that he was looking for February or something like that and we said, ‘No.’ We never said — listen, when Tyron Woodley wants to fight we don’t say, ‘No.’ So that wasn’t true and if you notice, TMZ took that clip down because that wasn’t true. It’s absolutely not true and they took it down,” White said.
“What’s gonna happen is now these interviews are going to come out and he’s gonna get all pissed off, ‘This guy doesn’t respect me and he doesn’t do this and that’ and all that shit. And that’s what’s gonna happen now and then me and Woodley are gonna go at it again and then we’ll see when the guy ends up fighting. It’s like Groundhog Day. That’s what happens every single time.”
Ironically, White had nothing but good things to say about one of Woodley’s training partners Ben Askren, a new addition to the UFC’s welterweight roster who has feuded with White for years.
“Listen, all this time Ben Askren and I have had this thing, this guy wants to fight everybody,” White said of the unbeaten welterweight. “I love it. I love guys — especially in the 170-pound division — it’s a breath of fresh air when you have a guy who wants to fight everybody. I like it.
“I like his attitude and I like where his head’s at. A guy like that’s going to make it far in this company.”
With names like Askren, Covington, Kamaru Usman, and Santiago Ponzinibbio among others lining up for a shot at the gold, it was suggested to White that another interim situation could be created or Woodley could even be stripped; however, White did not make a firm statement about possibly vacating the current championship.
“I’m not talking about anything, I’m just saying fights will continue to happen,” White said. “Whether you fight or don’t fight, we’re gonna roll on.”