A year ago, during UFC 158 fight week in Montreal, I met with then-new UFC welterweight Tyron Woodley.
A month earlier, Woodley had won his UFC debut, knocking out Jay Hieron in just 36 seconds. It was an emphatic statement from Woodley, who had developed a reputation in Strikeforce as someone who relied mostly on his wrestling to win fights. But the Hieron knockout signaled the coming of a different Woodley.
Now, after his victory over former interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 171, Woodley is ready. And though the win came when Condit suffered a knee injury, Woodley says he's satisfied with the way things ended.
"We were halfway through the second round, seven minutes into the fight. And I was winning seven minutes. I didn't plan on slowing down. I didn't plan on letting him get his rhythm going," Woodley says. "To me, I won in the same way as if you put someone in an armbar and they break their arm. It was an offensive attack that caused the injury. And I saw the injury, and I went after it. I put myself in the position to fight for the world title."
A year ago, Woodley told me he also planned on becoming more outspoken. He would be asking for the fights he wanted. He had a plan to earn a UFC title shot, and he would not be shy about asking for it when he was good and ready. It appears to be working; he's getting more high-profile fights, and he's certainly in the mix when it comes to contenders for new champ Johny Hendricks.
"The plan worked. I don't think it was so much a plan where I'm staging this. But these are the things that are on my mind, and these are the things I want. I just need people to know what's in my head," Woodley says. "I train like a champion. I live like a champion. I will be a champion. People just need to know that it's the way I feel, and that I am a person who can walk around with the belt."
Going into UFC 171, Dana White noted that the decision on who would face Hendricks next would likely come down to who put on the best performance. Hector Lombard, also a contender, won a middling decision over Jake Shields earlier in the evening, and that makes Woodley think he did enough to earn his title opportunity.
"I do think so. I also think I fought the toughest guy. It was the co-main event for a reason," he says. "I think Hector had a good fight, but Jake Shields has the ability to make guys look bad."
One of the dark-horse contenders for the next title shot is Nick Diaz, who, despite losing his last two fights and not winning a fight since 2011, has been repeatedly discussed (at least by the fans) as Hendricks' next opponent.
Woodley's hearing none of that.
"Everybody wants a title shot. My mom is probably gonna call and say she wants a title shot. It's not cool, in my opinion. Where were you guys when Georges St-Pierre was the champion? It's kinda funny that everyone thinks they could beat him," Woodley says. "Nick Diaz couldn't beat him. And Nick has been on hiatus, and he hasn't won since 2011? Give me a break, man. Bro, the belt has to hold some type of integrity. You haven't won since 2011. You lost your last two fights. You lost to the guy I beat."
In the end, Woodley says he'll do whatever he can to get the next title shot. But it's not up to him, and the powers that be may opt to go with Diaz or Rory MacDonald or even give Robbie Lawler a rematch.
"What's going to happen is going to happen. I'm not going to go crazy and blow up Dana's phone. You can delay, but you can't deny," Woodley says. "I will be world champion. I will be the best fighter in the world."
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