The UFC’s welterweight champion has made it clear that he plans to cement himself as the greatest welterweight of all time in 2018.
All things considered, Tyron Woodley has had a pretty successful 2017. Two wins in his first two title-defences saw him establish his reign atop the 170lb division but despite the fact that he was facing two of the trickiest specialists in the game – Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson – the genius of his methodical approach was lost on the majority of fans, who were put off by his tactical game plan and the rather drab fight that happened as a result of it.
Sure, in Maia you have the most dangerous grappler in MMA today and in Thompson perhaps the most clinical striker but even though Woodley managed to leave both contests with his belt retained, his reputation took some serious hits from those who paid their money to see a more action-heavy matchup.
Now, with no opponent on the horizon, ‘The Chosen One’ spoke to Sports Illustrated about his next move as welterweight champ and, not surprisingly, he’s looking to push on a solidify his legacy with a win over the one man whose status as a UFC welterweight casts a shadow that looms large over the entire division.
“I wanted to fight one more time [this year], I was being greedy. I wanted to go out here and beat [Maia] and I wanted to fight Georges St-Pierre in November in New York City. This would’ve been the greatest year competitively, and after I beat Georges, there is no question that I’ll be Fighter of the Year. I fight five title fights in 18 months and beat the greatest welterweight of all time, nobody has done anything like that in our sport.
“My brother-in-law just asked me and I said you know what, if he wins I’m going up there to fight him cause you can’t keep running from me. I would fight Bisping as well, to be honest. I’m not just saying I want to move up to middleweight because at welterweight I’m a larger size and I feel comfortable at the weight. I have no issues making it, it’s not easy but I always get it done.
“To fight Bisping or Georges, I’d love fight either one. But mainly I want to fight Georges.”
St-Pierre is set to make his comeback against the middleweight champion Michael Bisping at UFC 217, and though the fight will be his first in almost four years, those who understand the type of athleticism and devotion that GSP brings to the table will know that he would most definitely not have returned unless he and his coach Firas Zahabi were certain that a comeback would showcase a Georges St-Pierre who could compete at a championship level.
Woodley, of course, realises that the interim-middleweight champ Robert Whittaker is pegged to take on the winner of UFC 217’s eagerly anticipated showdown but continuing on from there, made some pretty valid points about those who feel they have the ‘right’ to anything in this game, especially in today’s modern era of the UFC.
“There is no such thing as a stipulation, you’re a sub-contract worker. You’re not obligated or required to do anything. What about when Johny Hendricks was the clear-cut winner and it was time for him to fight for the title and he got passed over by Nick Diaz who lost to Carlos Condit? It’s a game of what fight makes money, that’s all it is.
“There is no no. 1 contender, I’ve fought them all, right? At the end of the day, you don’t get rewarded for beating someone whose claim is the no. 1 contender, the No. 1 guy outside the champion. There is no reward for that.
“But guys can go out and fight guys that aren’t even in their weight class, aren’t even ranked in the top-10. Bisping’s last fight against Dan Henderson, was Dan Henderson even in the top-15 at the time? Conor fought Nate Diaz at 170 and neither one of those guys are true 170-pounders. It’s not a matter of no. 1 contendership anymore. It’s a matter of money and business.”
In fairness to Woodley, he didn’t complain (too much) when he was thrown two of the most difficult opponents to prepare for on the roster right now over the course of three different fights and it must be said that the welterweight division might be better off if a few months were taken to establish a true no. 1 contender.
There’s no shortage of talent vying for a shot at the belt but given the number of choices available to the UFC, perhaps letting the welterweight waters clear a bit might be in the best interests of those making the fights, and indeed in those of the divisional champ.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena