Is Tyron Woodley an Underappreciated Champion in the UFC?
With seemingly little respect from fans, some media and his own boss, ‘underappreciated’ is a word that can be used to describe UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Updated: Aug. 2, 2017 • 10:03 AM ET
Dana White was quick to criticize Tyron Woodley after UFC 214.
UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is coming off a successful title defense at UFC 214, but the result seemed to be one of the more unrewarding victories for a champion in recent memory. Why?
During an appearance on “The MMA Hour” Monday afternoon, Woodley demanded a public apology from UFC president Dana White for comments he made following Woodley’s third straight title defense Saturday night.
“You ask fans if they want to see Woodley fight again,” White said in the post-UFC 214 press conference. “I think that would be a flat out ‘no’. Who wants to pay to see Tyron Woodley fight again?”
Woodley passionately responded.
"If you're going to publicly scrutinize me, Dana White, you publicly need to apologize to me," Woodley said. "I've done nothing but good stuff for the sport. I've done nothing but be a good [role] model for the f---ing organization.
“I go out there; I fight with integrity. I’ve covered your sport from the FOX desk a week before my fight. I always uphold my responsibilities with the organization. It’s time out for that.”
With a win at UFC 214, Woodley was expecting a big payday and a super-fight with former welterweight champion and UFC legend Georges St-Pierre. St-Pierre hasn’t fought since November 2013 and has teased a comeback for more than a year. However, White also said that due to Woodley’s performance, the current welterweight champion wouldn’t be getting a crack at the legend. Instead, middleweight champion Michael Bisping will fight St-Pierre.
White said he knows Bisping will show up to fight and put on a show for the fans in the super-fight. That may be true, but will St-Pierre? The former champion gained a reputation toward the end of his championship run as a guy who grinds out victories while taking minimal chances, which is exactly what White criticized Woodley of doing after UFC 214. Did fear of an unexciting fight play a part in White’s decision to publicly shun Woodley from the opportunity to fight St-Pierre?
The “play it safe” approach bothers the casual MMA fan, who tunes in to see highlight-reel knockouts. For Woodley, this calculated approach has allowed him to keep the belt, while also affording him the ability to fight four times in a year. Woodley deserves some credit for being one of the most active champions on the UFC roster.
Going into Saturday night’s fight, the welterweight champ was aware of Maia’s takedown and submission abilities, and he defended them perfectly. He stopped all 24 of Maia’s takedown attempts, an impressive feat that no one in the 170-pound weight class has achieved. Be that as it may, fans weren’t impressed and began booing both fighters, then pulled out their cell phones and waved them in unison as if they were at a Journey concert.
Woodley has bought into the idea that he’s the champ and if you want the belt, you’ll have to take it from him. Stephen Thompson couldn’t take the title from him in two attempts, and Demian Maia couldn’t take it either. Woodley explained that he understands the kind of fights fans want to see, but the way he’s winning and the things he has done in the Octagon are being overlooked.
One thing is for certain, without the belt, a fight between Woodley and St-Pierre isn’t even an option. Woodley understands that to keep his marketability intact, he needs to be the champion. So why make a mistake to put himself in imminent danger of losing the belt? Championship fights are a huge booster for pay-per-view buys (Woodley and Maia was one of three title fights at UFC 214) and a large part of what made UFC 214 a success.
Woodley is walking a fine line between being a champion and being an essential part of the business that is the UFC. He appears to be in the business of keeping the belt and going down as the greatest welterweight of all time — for that he should be commended. But will his approach get him the payday he desires?
White is in the business of promoting fights that will generate revenue. If he doesn’t believe Woodley fits into that business plan, he’s less likely to take a risk. Woodley doesn’t believe these feelings should be made public.
"I don't have an issue with Dana,” Woodley said. “He don’t have an issue with me. Dana actually likes me, and I know that.
“But the thing about it is, be a straight shooter to me; that’s how I operate. I can’t speak for Amanda Nunes and Demetrious Johnson, those are my friends and I always want to see them maximize and get what they deserve. But speaking for myself the way that I deal and operate, you come and talk to me. You feel like i had a s---ty fight? Come pull me to the side before you get on the podium. If you feel like I didn’t deliver or I didn’t promote or I’ve done something negative, or you didn’t like what I posted on social media or you had an issue with something I said on FOX, or whatever the situation is, I’m a communicator. Come to me. Talk to me about it.
“I don’t want to hear about it afterward, because at that point I feel like you’re not promoting me. You’re demoting me.
Woodley deserves the best fights that will strengthen his brand and get him closer to going down as one of the all-time greats. If that fight is with St-Pierre, Woodley deserves the fight. But if he never fights GSP and keeps successfully defending the title, Woodley deserves worldwide recognition.
Not having that status now can be used as fuel for the fire to defeat his next opponent, no matter who it is. How Woodley wins shouldn’t matter.