Legacies are of utmost importance to athletes, and particularly for those in combat sports, when they want to make a name for themselves, Madison Square Garden is the place to do it.
Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is looking to build upon his legacy when he defends his title against Stephen Thompson in a co-headlining bout at UFC 205, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut show in New York City and first-ever event at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“I’m just here to make history,” Woodley said at the UFC 205 pre-fight press conference.
Woodley made good on his first championship opportunity and knocked out now former welterweight titlist Robbie Lawler at the 2:48 mark of the first round in the main event of UFC 201 at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, at the end of July.
After both fighters measured up their opponents in the early going, Woodley faked a left-handed punch and then, fired a sharp right hand that landed flush on the left side of Lawler’s face. The defending champion was clearly stunned and fell backward against the cage, which left open an opportunity to finish the fight.
Woodley did not waste a second, as he shot in and landed five straight punches with his right hand to Lawler’s face before the referee stepped in and called a stop to the championship bout.
Woodley landed eight of his 11 strikes (73 percent), and all of those were considered significant blows.
After an 18-month absence from The Octagon, Woodley returned to become the ninth undisputed welterweight champion in UFC history, and posted the quickest finish to a championship bout ever in his weight class.
Woodley is now 16-3 in his professional mixed martial arts career, but still enters his first championship defense as an underdog.
“I don’t worry about the rankings, man, or the underdog,” Woodley said. “I’m the world champion. People can have me as the underdog all they want. I go out there and prove them wrong every, single time.
“Fights aren’t fought on paper. The odds can say whatever they want. I’ve been the underdog five of my last six fights. I have the fastest finish in welterweight championship history. At the end of the day, five of my six victories have been by finish, so I’m just going out there to fight and make history.”
And should Woodley make good on his promise to “beat Thompson like a drum,” he believes it will cement his legacy in the fight game.
“I think that puts me on the shelf with the best,” Woodley said. “That’s the most important part to me, fighting at MSG, fighting where all of the greats fought at, going out there and putting on a dominant performance and making history.
“Stephen’s a puzzle, man. We took a long time trying to figure out the puzzle, brought in some great guys to training camp. I’m just excited to go out there and put on a great show.”