UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley discusses interim belts, UFC marketing and title challengers with Stephie Haynes.
This past weekend, Tyron Woodley successfully defended his welterweight crown for the third time in less than 12 months. That stat is impressive in that most champions fight once, maybe twice a year, but the 35-year-old Ferguson native has been resolute about being an active champion.
His win has been panned by fans, pundits and UFC brass alike, specifically by promotion president Dana White, but the fact remains that he completely dominated Demian Maia in a way not even Anderson Silva could lay claim to with a shutout win that featured 24 stuffed takedowns and a knockdown. During the post-fight press conference, White stated that GSP’s return fight wouldn’t be against Woodley, instead it would be against current middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
And just like that, White had a vehicle to garner interest in a fight that previously saw fans almost universally criticizing. By disparaging Woodley’s fight, then re-offering Georges St-Pierre to Bisping, he’d found a way to turn the tides, albeit at the expense of his welterweight champion. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with Tyron, who expressed his frustration during the week’s media rounds. I managed to catch up with him late Wednesday to get his thoughts on title challengers, smoothing things out with Dana White and interim titles.
“They haven’t mentioned me fighting Robbie Lawler. Robbie took a year off and won a razor thin fight that some people thought he might have lost. I think he needs one more victory before they start talking about me fighting him. There was no controversy in that fight, he didn’t land one punch, he got knocked out in record-breaking time and then he took an entire year off after that. That doesn’t scream and yell, ‘Let me give this guy a title shot.’
Then again, it depends on who you are. Sometimes guys are the favorite. Carlos Condit did the same thing. I went out there, I destroyed him, he took 14 months off, came back and beat Thiago Alves, who was outside of the top 15 at the time, and got a title shot against Robbie. We’ve seen this coin flipped to the same side a couple different times.”
“Zero. All the exposure he’s getting… enjoy it. I know he’s not used to it. He’s just trying to get some buzz, but unfortunately, it’s at the cost of making himself look silly. He’s not even on my radar. If that’s the way he feels he needs to get attention, have at it.”
“What Jorge is doing is the respectful way. Jorge is in a position to actually fight for a title. Had he not lost the split-decision—which was a very close fight—to the guy I just shut out, he would’ve been fighting for the title, so I have no issue at all with him campaigning for a title shot. I have no issue with the way he’s going about it. His goal should be to fight for a title. As you saw when I fought Robbie Lawler, sometimes you have to fight a teammate or a friend if it comes down to UFC gold. I respect Jorge a great deal.”
“He’s gonna have to walk on water for him to get another shot at me. He had two opportunities, and not many people get a second chance. He had two opportunities to show that he was the better fighter, and in both cases, I felt he didn’t show that. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense, to be honest. That’s like Joseph Benavidez getting another crack at Demetrious Johnson. Are a lot of fans going to be tuning in for that? To answer your question, there’s not a really clear-cut contender right now. What they have to do is shuffle the deck. Obviously, my shoulder is an issue, but that gives time for these guys to compete with each other and let a true No. 1 contender emerge.”
“It’s fair to say they [the UFC] market the people they want to and I could make a very clear argument on several fighters, both male and female, that have been given the proper marketing push, but I don’t want to take away from them because I think everyone in the UFC deserves proper marketing. I’m certainly not saying those guys don’t deserve that, and I’m not envious of them, but when you’re the champion and you’ve done so many positive things for the organization, you fought so many fights where you dominated… think about the resume I’ve made for myself over eleven fights and who I’ve fought. I’ve always tried to fight the No. 1 guy. If it was Johny, I wanted him. If it was Carlos, I wanted him. If it was Georges, I wanted him. If it was Robbie, I wanted him. I’ve always wanted to fight the toughest guys.
You know, I think the Jose Aldo/Conor McGregor promo video was one of the best promos they’ve ever put together, but I also think they put in what they know they’re going to get back. They put in millions of dollars to promote that fight because they knew they were going to get that back tenfold. I think you have to prove yourself, but my only issue with the way a promotion promotes a fighter is that you have to give a fighter an opportunity to be successful. It’s very hard to break through to be that superstar, to be that household name when you have negative words coming from the UFC president or the commentators aren’t educating the fans on what’s actually taking place. It makes it nearly impossible.
On one side of the coin, you have fighters that don’t really have to do any work—the UFC is just hand over fist putting them with every corporate sponsor, every marketing opportunity, every promo, every appearance—they’re just constantly putting those guys out there. It’s almost as if they’re getting the marketing done for the fighters. Look at me, though; I’m doing my own champion series on my Youtube channel, I do my own networking with celebrities, actors, professional athletes, recording artists—I’m doing all that myself. There’s very few things I’ve done that have been orchestrated or connected through the UFC.
I’ve had meetings with those guys and supposedly we were going to sit down and figure out how they could market me differently and get me out there. The first time I saw it was on the “In the Clinch” feature on FS1. That was a great feature on how important it is that I’m here and the adversity I had to overcome to be here.”
Smoothing Things Out with Dana White
“We had a good conversation. I’m an outspoken person and if I see things that aren’t right, I’m gonna speak on it, whether it’s myself or anybody else. I think that’s what you should do, you should advocate for things to be right across the board. I felt like some things he said weren’t right, he felt some things I said weren’t right. He had some issues with my performance, I had some issues with the way some people were talking about it. We talked, yelled, went back and forth and at the end of the conversation, we left on much more respectful terms. I felt much better after the call.
In general, I don’t have a problem taking up for myself over something I felt was wrong. I went out there and completely scored a shutout over a guy that has had 12 opponents back-to-back that he’s been able to score takedowns on, seven victories in a row, 19 UFC victories, and had he beaten me, he would have tied the record for the most victories in the Octagon. Nobody, not even Anderson Silva, made Demian Maia look like that.”
Possibility of an Interim Title
“If the UFC brings an interim belt, they better be ready to wage war, because I’m gonna be the most livid, most vocal—if they think that I speak out now—I mean, I’ve fought in four world title fights in less than a year. I out-brawled the brawler, Stephen Thompson was not able to look as magnificent as he’s looked against everybody else and I completely schooled Demian Maia. I fought four times in 12 months and I was prepared to fight five times in 18 months if I had been able to fight in November.
I don’t even think the word “interim” should even be fixed on the UFC’s mouth, not only because of how active I’ve been—Conor McGregor hasn’t even spoken about defending his belt. All that said, there’s still no clear contender. No matter what’s going on with me, the deck needs to be shuffled a little more anyway. You’ve got Kelvin talking about coming down, you’ve got Masvidal, you’ve got Wonderboy, Robbie Lawler, all these guys need to fight each other to see who the clear contender is. In the meantime, I’ll be watching as I heal up, and I’ll be ready to take the next one out.”