This past Friday was a frustrating day for UFC welterweight contender, Tyron Woodley. After a tough training camp and a successful weight cut, he was informed (just 30 minutes prior to the weigh-ins) that his opponent, Kelvin Gastelum was going to weigh in well over the contracted weight of 170 lbs. He decided to continue on with the fight anyway, despite Kelvin weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds over the limit. UFC brass enforced a penalty whereby Woodley would receive 30% of Gastelum's purse.
Saturday came, the two fought, and Woodley was victorious via a split decision, despite breaking his foot in the first round. In his post fight interview, Tyron announced that he would be returning the 30% penalty back to Gastelum, citing his own experiences with financial struggles in the past. It was a classy move, any way you slice it.
Bloody Elbow recently spoke with Woodley who gave a little more detail behind his generous gesture, as well as his feelings on the critical reception his fight with Gastelum garnered, who he feels deserves the next title shot, whether he's made enough money to retire comfortably and the organization's disregard for the rankings system when making title fights. Here's what he had to say:
I remember when I had my first loss against Nate Marquardt. When we go out there to fight, we basically put ourselves through the fire, and we're not assuming we'll be losing half our money. If the purse is $5000 to show and $5000 to win, in my mind, it's $10,000, so I do my training camp with that in mind. Now, when you step in the cage, and you've put all your time, effort and money into it, and you lose, you're only coming home with half your money, and sometimes, that can leave you economically strapped. I don't know his financial situation, but I think that there was enough going on with it, that it was just another unneeded penalty, because it felt like I was just taking his money.
I've had fights that I felt I won, like when I fought Jake Shields, and that loss of the win bonus felt like somebody was taking my money. When I lost to Nate Marquardt, I was actually behind in rent on my gym, and I thought to myself, ‘How am I going to make it to the next fight?' Those are the things that were going through my mind when I decided to give him the penalty money back.
I was really pissed off at the time, but not so much at him, as just the matter itself. I wasn't mad at him, personally. He's a young kid and might need some lifestyle changes or some reevaluation of his circle. I don't know if he's going to be allowed to keep fighting at welterweight, but if he is, he needs to walk around 15 pounds lighter. He's not shredded with muscle or 6 feet tall. He's 5'8, and he may need to mature up and make changes and adjustments.
The worst part about an athlete not making weight is that it often isn't known that they won't weigh in on point until the day of the weigh-ins. However, in some instances, a fighter will know several hours in advance, giving the promotion the opportunity to make a catch weight that the two agree on. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Gastelum and Woodley.
I wasn't told that he wasn't going to make weight until 30 or 40 minutes before the actual weigh-in, so I didn't have the luxury of knowing any earlier than that. Me, I still would have made weight. I want to be a world champion. You've got to be 170 scratch to be able to compete for the title. It's not like they pull the numbers out of their ass, ‘Today it's 175 or 180.' It's the same weight every time, and I would have made it on principle. They said to me, ‘You can go ahead and start drinking and rehydrating because he's not going to make it.' I said, ‘I'm not going to do that. My weight class is 170. I worked hard to come out here and look good and feel good,' and that's what I did.
When it comes to putting on a winning performance, sometimes the subtle nuances of the techniques displayed can be lost on the casual audience. The absence of a finish or a complete, all-out war can make for a disgruntled fan. Tyron knows that every fight can't be a barn burner, especially at the elite contender level.
Sometimes you have the ability to do supernatural things in there; flying off the cage to land a kick, knock people out with a single punch. The thing is, when you do this, people start to rely on that as the standard, but not all fights are going to shake out with a finish. This division is tough. There are no easy fights.
With the Hendricks/Brown fight on the horizon, many folks would like to say the winner of that fight face off against Woodley. He would like to let the division settle itself a little before making a decision on the best fight for the path to the title.
I would like to let this weight class settle down a bit. The organization has a very unique situation, and I think there might just be a few too many fights. Joe Silva's job is to make contenders. We've already got four contenders lined up, back to back. Now, we've got a lot of injured guys or guys that have just lost. It's great that they're putting on so many fight cards and giving us a chance to make money, but now we're clouded again on who really is the top contender. I'm the Number 3 guy in the world right now, and they're making contender bouts with guys that aren't even ranked as high as me, but that's just the nature of the game, and I know if I'm patient, my time will come.
Tyron is not too concerned with the UFC's disregard for their own rankings system when making title fights, preferring to keep his focus on staying active and in the win column rather than worrying about who will be next.
Every fight is a high risk fight, because that's the nature of the style match-ups and how tough the division is. That's why I'm not complaining. I'm just going to keep fighting, keep winning over Top 10 guys, and eventually, I'm going to be standing alone, and they're going to have to give me the shot.
Right now, I feel like Matt Brown should be fighting Carlos Condit, I should be fighting Johny Hendricks, and I think Rory should've gotten the shot, and the winner of me and Johny should've gotten the second shot, but I'm not the matchmaker, that's not my job.
Fighting is not only physically demanding, it also takes quite a toll on the bank account due to training expenses. A Top 10 fighter can spend anywhere from $10 - 100K per fight camp ($100K has been a rumored number for the cost of one fight camp for Georges St. Pierre). Then there's Uncle Sam that will need his cut of the pie. Special foods and supplements, and for some, nutrition coaches are also an added expense. Making enough money to retire comfortably is a monumental task, so a backup plan for a post-fight career is essential, and Woodley has already begun planning for his future.
I don't have to keep fighting, but that's because I have a degree (Tyron graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in agricultural economics) that I've put to good use already. I have other businesses I'm involved with that could sustain my living if I stopped fighting. I keep fighting because I haven't reached my personal goals yet.
You're never going to make enough money to "comfortably" retire unless you're a continuous champion. You always have to plan your exit strategy, because if you don't, the sport is going to chew you up, take some of the best years of your life and then you're going to be back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you started fighting.
I've started asking the fighters I interview a standardized question: If they could choose 1 or 2 people from the combat sports world to train with on a regular basis, who would it be. Tyron chose his boxing coach, Eric Brown from the Wild Card Gym.
My boxing coach, Eric Brown from Wild Card Boxing. I train with him in LA. If I had access to him every day, I think I would be the best boxer in the history of MMA. I'm not even exaggerating, he's that good. He trains Pacquiao, he trains Paulie Malignaggi and we've clicked really well. He's got a wealth of knowledge, so if I could train with him on a day to day basis, I think I would be pretty damned bad with my hands.