For pro fighters, the ability to explain away a loss is important. For every fighter willing to sit down and just admit that their opponent was better than them on the day, there are half a hundred more who will look for any line of reasoning other than the obvious. After all, fighting at the highest levels of MMA can only get that much harder if an athlete doesn’t think they can beat anyone they face, on any given day.
Most often, after a bad defeat, talk of illness during fight week, or the burden of nagging injuries will surface. Sometimes fighters will complain that they didn’t get to have a ‘real’ contest; that their opponent ‘ran,’ or only came to wrestle. Former UFC champion Tyron Woodley has something of a unique take on his one-sided drubbing at the hands of Kamaru Usman, last March, at UFC 235. For him, the thorough beating he suffered to lose his championship belt came down to a simple fact: that wasn’t him in the cage that night.
“When you watch the Kamaru Usman fight, I don’t have to watch it. It was a silhouette of Tyron in the Octagon or something happened when I jumped up and stomped down, I think my spirit left my body,” Woodley said during a Q&A with fans in Vancouver (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I can give him credit for what he did. He stayed focused, he executed but we all know that wasn’t Tyron Woodley.
“So I don’t have to go back and watch the film and say the chain wrestling [affected me]. I’m a Division I All-American [wrestler], not Division II. I’m not knocking that but it’s a way different level. When you think about striking, when you think about my resume, it’s not that he did something so great that I couldn’t keep up with. It’s just the fact that it’s one of those nights when you walk out there, everything feels perfect and you get close to your opponent and the battery pack is snatched out of your back. That’s really what I felt like.”
In fact, despite dropping every round, including a 10-8 round from two judges – all while getting out-struck 141-34 in significant strikes (and an appalling 336-60 in total strikes) – Woodley is still confident that he’s a “nightmare for [Usman] every day of the week.”
“If I look at the way the fight went, I don’t think I won a round in that fight, if that was me fighting me, I would have knocked my ass out,” Woodley said. “The only thing I can take away is that I had to go back and rebuild, sharpen my tools, get that hunger back, that’s where I feel like I’m at right now.”
Woodley went on to say that he isn’t interested in watching the fight, or adjusting his game. He feels the important lesson to take away is that he needs to “just go out there and fight.”
When he’ll return to the cage, however is another matter entirely. Woodley was booked to face fellow former UFC champion Robbie Lawler in a rematch of their 2016 title fight over the summer. However, a hand injury forced him from the bout. In a recent interview with TMZ, Woodley suggested that his hand injury was more or less behind him now, though, and that he’d be back in the Octagon by the end of the year. Hopefully that means fans will see him in fighting form again soon.