With a win at UFC 171, Tyron Woodley believes that his future holds the same reward as that of his foe, Carlos Condit.
According to the UFC on Fox Twitter account, the UFC recently told Condit that he would receive a title shot if he defeats Woodley on March 15, and "T-Wood" responded by saying it should be the same for him.
"I'm going to beat Carlos Condit," Woodley told Bleacher Report. "I'm fighting for the world title. There's no 'if.' I like how people automatically assume Carlos gets the bid if he wins, but I have to win by some devastating, crazy, miraculous way for me to get a title shot. I believe that the word 'No. 1 contendership' means that the winner gets the bout."
He might have a point.
The former Strikeforce welterweight title contender has gone 2-1 since joining the UFC in February 2013. He has two ferocious knockout victories and one disappointing, debatable split-decision loss to one of the sport's best game-plan neutralizers in Jake Shields.
Condit went 1-1 over the same stretch of time, so it would appear that each man resides in a similar place within the division.
While "The Natural Born Killer" possesses some of the best striking in the welterweight class, he faltered against top-tier wrestlers in his recent losses to Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks.
Woodley, a former Division I wrestler at Missouri University, realizes this potential advantage, but he does not intend to rely upon it to secure victory on fight night.
"For me, it's not just going to the wrestling," he said. "What if I don't get the shots? What if I take him down and he's doing damage from his back and making me look like I'm tired? I have to be able to go 15 minutes—hard—and have enough for another couple rounds if I needed it."
While Woodley's wrestling remains an integral part of his skill set, he has showcased ferocious knockout power of late, flooring Jay Hieron at UFC 156 in 36 seconds and blasting Josh Koscheck at UFC 167 within the first round.
These two knockout victories demonstrate his evolution as a mixed martial artist. He has pieced the game together better than some of his peers who came from similar wrestling backgrounds.
"Over the past five years, I've really been focusing on the striking aspect, I've been training with some of the top coaches. It's all about getting those things to reflect in the cage," Woodley said. "I'm just really focusing on letting as much out as I can every fight, and I think that's what separates me...I have the training, and now I have the confidence, and I'm willing to let it go."
Beyond Condit, Woodley—should his declaration come true—might receive the winner of the night's main event between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. While Woodley respects both men and their respective repertoires, he sees one man as the clear front-runner of the welterweight division.
"Like it or not, Johny Hendricks is the leader of the pack now. He's the national champion wrestler that has stupid-heavy, powerful hands, and he's the leader of the new generation of MMA in our division," he said. "Johny Hendricks is, in my opinion, a harder style matchup than GSP for me."
Still, he acknowledges that his friend and teammate Lawler presents a unique challenge with his own brand of power and skill.
"That fight is going to be ridiculous. They both have the exact, pure power that I'm talking about," Woodley said. "Robbie is like somebody who's just been baling hay and beating steel his whole life. He just has the stupidest, dumpiest, heaviest hands that you could ever imagine. He looks so relaxed, but he just comes down like you got hit with a cast iron skillet."
At the end of the night, he hopes to notch another victory, settle in after post-fight interviews and watch the main event unfold. While he maintains that he will fight either guy for the UFC Welterweight Championship, he cannot deny his allegiance to Lawler and his camp at American Top Team.
"Robbie Lawler is a teammate and a friend of mine, and when I do what my job is, and that's to beat Carlos Condit, I'm going to be supporting him," Woodley said. "I'm going to be sitting there and hoping that he wins because he's a teammate, and American Top Team has never had a UFC world title before...and once the fight's over with, we'll address those issues of what's next."
For now, he sees only greatness in his near future, beginning with his scrap against Condit.
"If we fight hard and we fight like we should, it can't be a boring fight," Woodley said. "[And] I think winning over him is going to put me in world title contention."