For three years consisting of three official title defenses, Tyron Woodley held on to his status as the UFC welterweight champion. That all changed at UFC 235 in March 2019 when he faced Kamaru Usman, whom he lost to via unanimous decision.
“The Chosen One” was supposed to return to action three months later, but a hand injury foiled all those plans. And apparently, he was dealing with struggles that goes beyond just the physical.
During Thursday’s media day, Woodley talked about not having the drive to compete because of mental setbacks.
“The switch didn’t switch instantly,” Woodley told reporters (via MMA Fighting). “It took months. I went into a state of depression for a while. I really wasn’t talking to a lot of people. I was eating terrible. I wasn’t training.
“I felt like all my competition that I had before Kamaru Usman, I felt like that was the stiffest competition. I felt like all the great welterweights I had beaten before then were going to be my toughest competition. I didn’t take anyone lightly. I didn’t think it was going to be on cruise control at that point but I felt that I had that five rounds mapped out so well.
“I feel like my game plan, my strategy, my studying, my coaches, my team, I felt like I had everything in a position to win so I really had to deal with that and it took longer than any other fight in my career.”
“I had to deal with the fact that I lost my belt,” he added. “It was something that I didn’t expect to happen. I expected to retire as UFC champion after trying to chase down the record of Georges St-Pierre.”
Woodley did make some major adjustments with his training along the way. As he returns to action after a 14-month absence, the 38-year-old welterweight is feeling rejuvenated.
“I got to the point where I felt like I faced it head on,” Woodley said. “I feel like I’m a better person, I’m a better fighter, I’m a better human being because of it and I feel like it was necessary for my journey.
“I’m coming out swinging. I’ve always come out swinging after a defeat but this time it’s a little bit different because I plan on making this a complete lifestyle change, the way that I’m taking the fight game and the way that my focus is really set back to that amateur Tyron Woodley that was trying to turn professional, that wanted to fight in the UFC, that wanted to be a champion, that wanted to reign, that wanted to be the greatest and now I’m out for everything right now.”
Woodley will headline Saturday’s ESPN card against Gilbert Burns. It will take place at the UFC’s APEX facility in Las Vegas.