UFC 171 is shaping up to be a very good card, a Welterweight spectacular that will not only see a new champion crowned, but will also extract the next challenger for the title. It's ideally the way all cards with a belt on the line should be, alas, much like the 10-10 round, it is a unicorn.
The co-main event for the card will line up Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley for the Number 1 contender berth, and will see the winner of the fight go on to face the winner of the main event, Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler at a later date in 2014. While Condit has been a staple of the Top 10 rankings, currently sitting at Number 2, Woodley has yet to crack the Top 10.
A win and the ranking respect that comes with it are prizes that Woodley has set his sights on. I recently spoke with Tyron, who discussed this golden opportunity, how many times he reached out to Dana White to get the fight with Condit, and his initial thoughts on the match-up as he heads into his training camp for the bout. Here's what he had to say:
This is an amazing opportunity. You know, Dana never disclosed what those text messages were saying, but part of me soliciting him was me saying, ‘Hey, I don't care what these guys are ranked. I don't care who's next in line. I'm the next champion.' I firmly believe I have what it takes; the fight style, the wisdom, the hunger, and I believe I can carry the banner of integrity and be the champion and company guy that the UFC embraces. Sometimes guys get fights because they're good match-ups, and I think this is one of those fights.
The marketability for this one is that it's a crazy match-up. Carlos is a long guy and an amazing striker. To be honest, he's probably my favorite UFC fighter to watch. Just a few months ago, I was helping him push through the crowd because everybody was bombarding him. It's crazy how things can turn around that quickly.
The guy is retired. His return might be pending, but according to me, he's still retired. I don't believe he should be in the rankings. If you say you're retired, you should come out of the rankings. Until you're back in there competing, I don't think it's fair to ask people like myself, who's been fighting tooth and nail to get into the Top 10, just to have a shot at one of the Top 5 guys, to wait it out. I think Nick Diaz has done a lot for the sport, but I feel he's letting his legacy be sealed tight with what he's already accomplished. I don't really think we'll see him fight again. It definitely worked out to my benefit that he turned down the rematch, for sure.
The Squeaky Wheel
I'm just the squeaky wheel, yelling as loud as I can, begging to be heard. In this game, closed mouths don't get fed. Lazy pigs don't get no slop. I think Diaz has done what he set out to do. He's an amazing fighter that's surrounded in controversy. He sold a lot of PPVs and tickets. I haven't done that yet. I'm just waiting for the person that's brave enough to take the risk to fight a guy that's not in the Top 10 yet.
There's not a huge upside to taking a fight with me. Anybody Carlos fights and beats, he's going to get a title shot. Anybody. Taking a fight against me is a risky move. I wrestle hard, I punch hard and I'm hungry for this. I think I'm the guy that can intercept his title shot. I think I'm the guy that can spoil the party.
Evolution In Striking
I think a lot of the skills I possess now have been in the tool box all along. I just evolved with experience. I actually say these prayers to let God remove these chains from my arms so that I can just let loose and not hesitate. That's a fighter's dream. That's what you see in Jon Jones and some of these other athletes that just try anything. Anthony Pettis jumping off the cage is a good example. That's what we long to do, be able to just react and not overthink it.
When all the Strikeforce guys came over, I wasn't held in the highest regard. Everybody was all on D.C., Rockhold, Gilbert and Josh. I think I'm the one that's made the most noise, the fastest and the loudest. I think that speaks for itself.
It took me awhile to put that underneath the bridge. I feel like I won the fight, but more importantly, I feel like what I'm capable of and the tools at my disposal, they just weren't used. I feel like with Koscheck, he made me use all my tools, and Condit will do the same thing. Nate took me out of my comfort zone, too. Those are the fights that mold you. I could have easily crawled up under a rock and cried about it, but I came back strong and sent a message.
With Nate, that was something for the highlight reel. I can go to bed at night knowing that I fought hard and he caught me. With Jake Shields, I just didn't fight like I wanted to. That's the loss I'd really like to get back. Even though I didn't fight the way I would have liked, I still feel like the decision went the wrong way. If they ever gave me that rematch, I'd go out there trying to hurt him bad [laughs]. I'm wanting to get that one back so bad, that if we got back in the cage again, I'd be literally trying to take his head off, worse than I've done with anybody.
He couldn't take me down, he wasn't going to submit me, and he wasn't going to outstrike me. That fight was my ticket, and I kind of let it slip through my fingers. If he keeps climbing up through the ranks and beats Hector Lombard, there might be a chance for us to meet again. I don't want to get over emotional and get off my game, but if we ever get matched up again, you best believe that I'm coming after him like he stole something.
You know what, looking at my phone, I might have sent a very long message that got broken up into several messages by the time it got to him. I blew him up, I'm not gonna lie [laughs]. I don't know if it was 15 times and it wasn't every day, though. I found it amusing, so I let the stories ride the way they were.
Well, my agent isn't so excited about this fight. You know me and Carlos have the same agent, right? Yeah, we have the same manager and he didn't really want us to fight because somebody will have to take the loss.
Carlos knows I respect him and am a fan of his. He also knows this is a business. He's a professional and can go in there, compete with a guy, not talk crazy and come out to shake hands and have dinner afterward. We don't have some deep and involved friendship; we don't text or hang out, but I am a fan and he's my favorite guy to watch fight. You can never count him out; he's always dangerous. That's what I love most about his style.
I thought about those bonuses too much against Jake. I was holdin' and loadin'. I kept seeing his face and that goofy striking and was like, ‘You know what, I'm gonna just knock him out.' I kept looking for that perfect right hand, and it never came. Me waiting got me off my gameplan and broke my focus.
Now, what I focus on, is getting every dang tool in the toolbox out, putting them on the floor and using them. If I do that, every time I fight, then the potential for FOTN, KOTN or SOTN will present itself. Me doing that kills multiple birds with the same stone. I don't focus on the bonuses so much now. I focus on using all my tools to win.
I think I just have that special something. You can call it the ‘it factor' or whatever, I just have it. A lot of guys have either power or speed, but I have both. I know how to use them. I'm a good wrestler, I have good conditioning, great submissions and I'm hungry. I feel that when you stack up all the characteristics of what makes a great fighter, I have a few more checks in my column, and some of the intangibles that you can't train for. The mindset and hunger, you just can't train for those. I'm on a mission, and those things are going to put me ahead and set me apart from everyone else. I'm on a mission to be the best, to be the champion.
You can follow Tyron via his Twitter account @TWooodley