After a long climb up the UFC's mountain of 170-pound talent, Tyron Woodley reached the top at UFC 201 by knocking out Robbie Lawler on Saturday. Now the proud owner of a big gold belt, the newly minted welterweight champion has just one goal left: make enough cash to retire comfortably.
Speaking with the assembled media at the UFC 201 post-fight press conference (warning: NSFW language), The Chosen One called for a big-money fight against an established name while dismissing any discussion of facing less marketable opposition, via BloodyElbow.com's Anton Tabuena:
You know, I want to make some money now, to be honest...This is a sport where we can make cash now, so instead of just saying 'this person deserves it, he worked his way up the ranks,' I think Nick Diaz comes out of suspension in 2 days. I would love to fight him at UFC 202, I know his brother is fighting (there)...I would like to give him that opportunity, or I would like to fight Georges St-Pierre in New York City.
That declaration will almost certainly irk diehard fans. In many ways, Woodley fell into his own title shot at UFC 201 by narrowly edging out Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 183 in January 2015 and having a UFC 192 fight with Johny Hendricks get scrapped because of a botched weight cut. Many fans claim that Woodley, who sat out 18 months for a fight with Lawler, cut the line by getting a title shot instead of surging veteran Demian Maia or knockout artist Stephen Thompson.
That said, the move is good business. The UFC has drawn constant questions about fighter pay over the last few years, and the only reliable way for talented yet unknown fighters to make bank is by working opposite established names. A fight with either St-Pierre or Diaz offers a substantially larger payday than any alternative, and that would be further boosted by taking a spot on a big card like UFC 202 or UFC 205.
So what does he think should come next for Thompson, who many view as next in line for the title?
"Stephen Thompson said he wanted to fight Robbie Lawler. ... He'll get the opportunity to have that fight," he said. "I feel no obligation to go by the rankings. We all know how those rankings are produced anyway. I want to fight the money fights."
While it's unlikely he gets a crack at St-Pierre (who likely has no interest in going after the welterweight title), a fight with either Nick or Nate Diaz is a legitimate possibility.
As Woodley stated, Nick will soon come off suspension and, outside of fighting St-Pierre, has few logical options for a return opponent. A title fight with Woodley could be big enough to lure him back into the cage and could do numbers at the box office.
Nate is in a similar position. Currently lined up to face Conor McGregor in a rematch at UFC 202, he has few lucrative matchups available to him past that. With another win, he will have outgrown any potential fighters in the lightweight division and has little to work with in a burdensome welterweight division.
Ultimately, it's impossible to guess what will happen at this point. The welterweight title picture just became much more chaotic...and not necessarily in a bad way.