When athletes and artists from around the world make it big, there is only one place to ply their craft, and that is Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Known as the home of the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden has hosted everyone from Pope Francis to entertainers like John Lennon, Billy Joel and Elton John, boxers like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Joe Frazier and Rocky Marciano, and WrestleMania. However, it has never hosted a UFC event, not until tonight.
After a decade-long legal fight, mixed martial arts will make its MSG debut tonight.
And welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is proud to be on the card, where he will defend his title against Stephen “Wonder Boy” Thompson in one of the night’s featured bouts.
“MSG is where all of the top performers perform at, all the top artists, all the top athletes,” Woodley said at the UFC 205 pre-fight press conference. “I’m getting booed. This is the first time I’ve been getting booed. It’s actually kind of dope, but all the top performers go out and perform at MSG, so it’s going to be nothing different. I promise you I’m going to break that Octagon down, and I’m pretty sure all those boos are going to turn into cheers.”
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 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.
“First of all, you can boo me all you want, but there’s one thing you have to call me,” Woodley said. “You have to call me the welterweight champion of the world, and I knocked out the most vicious welterweight, the fighter of the year with fights of the year in record-breaking time, so you have to respect me, no matter what.
“No. 2, the first opportunity the Wonder Boy fight was offered to me officially, I accepted the fight the first time, and my legacy, No. 1, does not depend on what an individual thinks of me. I’m a high-level athlete. My resume speaks for itself, and I will fight Wonder Boy Nov. 12, and everybody will see why I’m the best welterweight in the world.”