Tyron Woodley will step inside The Octagon at UFC 209 in Paradise, Nevada, tonight to defend the welterweight championship of the world, and will do so against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the main event of the evening.
However, after watching the UFC’s promotion of the fight, Woodley continues to feel disrespected and underutilized by the world’s foremost mixed martial arts organization.
“Let’s be real here. Everybody wants to be real? Let’s be real here,” Woodley said at open workouts. “Look at the promotion. Was this promoted toward the champion? Was this promoted toward the challenger? You’ve got to be real to go back and look at it. Listen to the music, ‘Give me your best shot.’
“Every significant strike that was landed by my opponent miraculously made the highlight. I knocked him down four times in one round, had him in submission troubles twice in one round and completely annihilated him in the opening round.
“I just think that at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and fight and win. No matter what I say now, no matter what I say I’m going to do, no matter how the promotion went for the fight, I’ve still got to go and fight, and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Known as “The Chosen One,” 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 bout of UFC 201 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, last 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.
In the time since his title victory and first defense against Thompson, Woodley has been talking about the need for equality in the sport of mixed martial arts.
“If you’ve never experienced racism, if you’ve never experienced discrimination, and you don’t see what happens behind the scenes and you don’t see my feed on social media, therefore you just don’t recognize it exists,” Woodley said.
“It’s not his fault. He doesn’t have to go on the defense for his fans, but they’re out there, and if we, as a society, want to sit back and act like it doesn’t happen, then we’re in for a rude awakening.”
Although Woodley hasn’t “read a lot of the stuff” on social media leading up to the fight, he is aware of the hatred that has been directed his way because of his African-American heritage. And Woodley is hopeful that opening lines of communication will lead to better, fairer treatment for all fighters in the UFC.
“At the end of the day, I say things because they’re real,” Woodley said. “I don’t say them just to spark a buzz. I really say them to get a solution to the problem. I could spend a whole scrum itself talking about this sport and where it should be, and it’s not about race, guys. It’s about being fair.”