During Saturday night’s UFC Norfolk post-fight show, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley surprisingly suggested that he may yet fight for a third time this year.
In July, Woodley suffered a partial labrum tear during a successful title defence against Demian Maia at UFC 214. As a result, the California State Athletic Commission handed Woodley a 180-day medical suspension that would only be reduced if he received clearance from an orthopedist. The champion later admitted that he was considering surgery to repair the damage to his right shoulder and it looked like he was headed for a prolonged period on the shelf. There were even calls for the introduction of an interim belt among the 170-pound division’s top contenders.
Judging by his comment on Saturday, however, Woodley’s recovery must be going very smoothly indeed.
“You might be seeing me this year at some point,” said ‘T-Wood’, when asked to forecast his return. “Stay tuned. I may have some news for you next week.”
The comment is particularly interesting due to the fact that UFC 219, scheduled for December 30th, is still without a main event.
Last week, Holly Holm’s agent said that a mooted fight between ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ and UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino was ‘dead’ after a major road block was hit in the negotiation process. That bout was being targeted for UFC 219 and appeared to be one of the promotion’s few headliner options for the Las Vegas-based event.
The other fight being talked about in connection with the top spot on the card was a UFC lightweight title clash between champ Conor McGregor and interim titlist Tony Ferguson. UFC president Dana White suggested multiple times over the last few weeks that a 2017 McGregor return remained on the table, but the Irishman was demanding equity in the UFC and co-promoter status during interviews with the media. If that situation wasn’t complex enough, McGregor’s behaviour at a Bellator MMA event in Ireland on Friday could possibly lead to a suspension and cast another spanner into the works.
So, with the UFC short of options for it’s big, annual, year-end spectacular, is Woodley about to swoop in and save the day?
The problem for the UFC, of course, is that Woodley isn’t a huge draw. Yes, two of the last three cards he fought on performed very well on Pay-per-view, but on both those occasions he was in the co-main event slot behind massive fights – Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor at UFC 205 and Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2 at UFC 214. The two Pay-per-view cards that he actually headlined in the last couple of years – opposite then champ Robbie Lawler in July of last year and opposite Stephen Thompson in March – drew between 200,000 and 300,000 buys according to estimates(via Tapology). To make matters worse, Woodley’s last two fights – the aforementioned March rematch with Thompson and the July bout with Maia – were both snoozers that received poor receptions and probably further damaged his marketability.
For Woodley to draw a big number then, he will need a big name dance partner, and at present it doesn’t seem that such a dance partner is available.