Tyron Woodley is very likely the top welterweight on Strikeforce's roster. A wrestler by trade, he's dominated his opponents using takedowns and top control to break their wills. This weekend he's fighting Jordan Mein in what is a number one contender fight for a future shot at the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title. I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyron the day before he opened his new gym in St. Louis to find out what's going through his head as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career. The gym is called 'ATT Evolution' and is a huge step towards his goal of opening a non-profit for children..
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow) - So there was some big news the other day that Showtime extended the deal with Strikeforce to 2014. What's your take away from that announcement?
Tyron Woodley: My take away is that I was fighting January seventh regardless so for me I was really focusing on my next bout and my next opponent. Getting in there and showing fans what they need to see so they can realize that this is why I should be the champion. It's great news that the organization is sticking around. I didn't feel I was in jeopardy of being without a job. Had they disolved the organization, I feel like someone would have seen value in me and wanted to pick me up. So for me it was focusing on things I can control. I can't control what they decide to do with the organization. Of course I would like to win the belt since I've been in Strikeforce for a while and paid my dues to work my way to the top. Overall I just focus on things that I can control.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow) - Is there any disappointment that fighters won't be able to signed over to the UFC? Is there any disappointment on your end or no not really?
Tyron Woodley: No, not really man. Everyone's in a rush to jump ship and fight in the UFC. It comes with a lot of territory. Number one you are showing the organization that supported you that if anything better comes along you are looking to jump ship. Two, they're deep. You lose a close fight and you can be unemployed. Are you going to go back to Showtime and ask them to sign you again? So for me it's being loyal to the people I work for. It's the same organization and obviously you've got to be careful by the way you do things. For me it's focusing on the Strikeforce belt, getting a world title. Having a belt, having a title is gonna put you in a better position no matter what happens and if I do go to the UFC which obviously -- the goal is to be number one and those guys are in the UFC, so I can't be telling a story that I never planned on fighting in the UFC ever. You gotta do it the right way. You gotta do it with that belt and with some steam. You go over there like Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Dan Henderson, and Alistair Overeem. They went over there to fight the top five in the world immediately and some of them for the belt.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow) - So you've fought for the old regime, the old owners in Strikeforce and now the Zuffa-owned Strikeforce and you were at UFC 136...what's the biggest difference between how things used to be run and how they're run now. And what's the difference between the Strikeforce product and the UFC product in your eyes?
Tyron Woodley: I think that Strikeforce did great with what they had. The resources were obviously no where near what UFC has. They didn't have the marketing power. They now have the funds to do a lot of things so I think Strikeforce did the best with what they had. They signed some big names: Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Dan Henderson. They signed a lot of top guys with what they had so I think that's a credit to them being strategic. Since being purchased by the UFC they've just become more. There's more to the product and there are improvements with how it's presented on television. The interviews. They've really shown us how to push ourselves as a brand as a fighter. So they want your branding to be strong because it's good for them.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow) - Now the fight this weekend, you're fighting Jordan Mein. Has there been any discussion that this is gonna be for the belt or a number one contender for the belt?
Tyron Woodley: I'm already the number one contender. They made this fight because I needed to fight. And because it's a good match up. This fight won't be for the belt nor do I think it should be for the belt. I think he's a tough kid and I think he has a good record. He has a lot of fights and a lot of experience but overall, US fans need to get to know him a little bit better. He also just got to Strikeforce. So of course he'd love to take my fans and move forward for the belt. My job is to make sure that doesn't happen.
More after the jump...
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow): Has there been any discussion on when you will fight for the title? You've wiped out that division. The only person you didn't get to fight was Nick Diaz, has there been any talk on who you would fight?
Tyron Woodley: Unfortunately, there's so many guys in the weightclass who are prospects still and they really just don't have the name recognition for Showtime to be interested in for a title fight. So now you have to look at somebody who may be a good match up. There's guys who have issues getting into the US and others are injured so it's a peculiar situation where once again I am a victim of my situation. Me and Paul Daley one hundred percent should have been for the title. Now there's a situation where we're saying "what do we do?" Nick Diaz was a great bout and I hope to hopefully get that bout. But right now I gotta focus and know that everything is gonna work out.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow): Now as far as Strikeforce, you're 7-0 in the organization. The only other fighter that's riding a big win is Tarec Saffiedine, who you've beaten...
Tyron Woodley: The Tarec Saffiedine that I've already beaten by winning every round? That Tarec? HAHAHA
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow): Yeah I mean, is that a fight that makes sense? He's obviously made improvements. You beat him for three straight rounds and they present that as 'this is for the belt' what's in your mind with that one?
Tyron Woodly: He's made improvements and he's a tough fighter. I've been on the record saying he's one of the toughest guys in the division. When I took that bout I was sitting at the Strikeforce event in St. Louis and I took that fight on four weeks notice, I proved I was a kid who could take every round and put him away and force him to play my game. Everyone's like oh okay, I give it a B+. Then he fights Scott Smith who's walking around basically like a heavy bag taking punches and not even punching back. But that said, who did he just beat? He just beat Scott Smith who was taking a beating the whole time. His last real fight was with me on January 7th. I fought Paul Daley and he fought Scott Smith. The difference is that I fought a top 10 guy who can knock somebody out and you fought a guy who will take a beating until the last 30 seconds and then try and knock somebody out. I just don't feel like it makes sense. I think the fans want to see if because they sometimes don't realize what Mixed Martial Arts means. They think it's kickboxing. They want to see me go in there and not wrestle and just kickbox the whole entire time.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow): Now is that something that bothers you when they boo because you're going back to your bread and butter? You're a wrestler. Why wouldn't you use your greatest skill? Does that bother you when fans have the expectation that you're gonna go into a kickboxing bout?
Tyron Woodley: No, it doesn't bother me at all. It just puts me in a situation where you have to laugh because of the ignorance at not knowing what's going on. I had every intention on getting in and getting him frustrated by throwing punches and taking him down. I was in the cage and I don't remember them screaming. What I was doing was forcing them to not be able to concentrate on their game plans. As a smart fighter, if I know that something is frustrating my opponent and taking him completely out of his game, I'm gonna keep doing it. If he can't think clearly then his chances of winning a fight are very limited. I know what I'm doing and I know my goal is to get to the top.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow): Alright so you've spoken in the past about opening up a non profit for children and you've just opened up a new gym, is that part of the goal or totally separate?
Tyron Woodley: This is a little different. I do a mentoring program in St. Louis. It focusing on having a purpose and being a friend. With ATT Evolution, I want to impact the home. My impact here will be on the mom and the kids and bringing them together. Once I do that successfully then we're gonna focus on my non-profit. First thing first is to create a good business model and find the people that can push it forward. A lot of times running a non-profit is harder than running a for profit center because you have to have a combination of donors and good business model.
Matthew Roth (Bloody Elbow): Thank you Tyron.
Tyron Woodley: Hey man, anytime.