Plenty of fighters prepare for their next opponent by training in specific combat disciplines. Lloyd Woodard is training in discipline itself.
“In my last fight, I let my anger get to me,” Woodard said in an interview with Bleacher Report. “I had my hands down. I was talking. This time, I still want to do the things I do, but if someone pisses me off by running away or whatever it is, I’ve got to learn to control my emotions.”
It’s a fine line to walk for a self-described “mountain man” who prides himself on his back-alley mindset and everyman ethos. Nevertheless, it’s a line that came into sharp relief back in April, when a frustrated Woodard attempted to bait opponent Rick Hawn into a stand-up exchange. Perhaps the tactic worked a bit too well, as Hawn knocked out Woodard (12-2) to win the Bellator Season 6 Lightweight Tournament.
Thursday at Bellator 87, the hard-charging, horseshoe-mustachioed Woodard—part Yosemite Sam, part Tasmanian devil—begins a new tournament and faces a new challenge in fellow brawler David Rickels.
Woodard, 27, made his biggest impression on the MMA world last March at Bellator 62 with a violent kimura submission of heavily favored Patricky Freire. The fight was typical of the underdog-minded Woodard, who has gone the distance only three times in his career thanks to a motor always stuck in overdrive.
But if a fighter’s personality is what truly holds fan interest, Woodard is doing his part on that front, too.
“I’m like a wild animal going out for the fight. I’m super aggressive,” Woodard said. “I’m the Rocky Balboa of Bellator. I started off as a fan first, so I’m going out there to fight the kind of fight I’d want to watch. I’m just a normal dude. Other guys have black belts, but I’m just some tough kid. People think you have to be training with all these top camps. But I’m proving that’s not true at all. It’s about the heart and the determination.”
Woodard makes no attempt to mask his lingering frustration over that momentum-stopping loss to Hawn—or his desire to avenge it.
“Hawn was running away from me,” Woodard said. “I’d love to get a rematch with Hawn. I’d do it in an alley if they’d let me. But the best way to do that is to get some gold around my waist. If I won the belt, I’d ask for Hawn.”
For now, Woodard is looking to Thursday and a date with a fellow free swinger in Rickels. Expect a strong chance of fireworks.
“I’m getting amped up,” Woodard said. “I like to scrap. I like to take punches and I like to give punches. This is the style I like, and it's his style, too. If he’s going to come forward, I’m not going to move back.”
Bellator 87 airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on Spike TV.
Scott Harris is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.