Tyron Woodley Goes From ‘Choker’ To UFC Champ In Two Years

Written by Tom Ngo
July 31st, 2016

UFC Tyron Woodley

June 14, 2014 had to have been the darkest day in Tyron Woodley’s (pictured) professional mixed martial arts career. After unleashing back-to-back knockout finishes over former welterweight top contender Josh Koscheck and former interim 170-pound champ Carlos Condit, it appeared Woodley was finally coming into his own.

A pivotal showdown against fellow contender Rory MacDonald, who was dubbed the heir apparent to the welterweight throne many moons ago by former UFC king Georges St-Pierre, presented Woodley with a golden opportunity to earn a crack at the elusive crown. Fame, fortune and all the other perks that are attached to donning a UFC title was staring Woodely dead in the eyes.

Instead of seizing the moment, the moment submerged Woodley. UFC president Dana White labeled Woodley a “choker” after he laid an egg in an underwhelming unanimous decision defeat to MacDonald at UFC 174.

“[MacDonald] dominated Woodley,” White said at the time. “He made him not look like he shouldn’t have even been in there. “[Woodley] choked in the big fight tonight, man. He needed to come out and try to rip that head off in the third round, and he didn’t even do that. He threw a few punches, missed and didn’t knock him out and just sort of set back into the way he fought in the rest of the fight. He got beat tonight. He got beat mentally, he got beat physically. Tyron’s got a way to go.”

Fast forward just 25 months and Woodley has arrived. If I’m not mistaken, I do believe that’s White wrapping the belt around the “choker’s” waist.

If anyone knows how fickle the violent and unpredictable sport of MMA is, it’s Woodley. Seven years ago, Woodley submitted Salvador Woods on the prelims of “Strikeforce: Shields vs. Lawler.” Less than a hour after waxing Robbie Lawler in UFC 201‘s main event, “The Chosen One” chose the perfect time to try and cash in on his newfound fame.

So after blasting Lawler with a vicious right hand at UFC 201 to capture UFC gold, the freshly-minted welterweight champ was only seeing green. Speaking of green, Nick Diaz’s 18-month marijuana suspension will be lifted, tomorrow, August 1. Guess who Woodley would like to break in his shiny new belt against?

“I want to make some money, I’ll be honest,” Woodley said at the UFC 201 post-fight press conference. “Goal 1 is to be the welterweight champion of the world, but I put in too much time, I’m away from my family way too often. This is a sport where we can make cash now, so instead of just saying, ‘This person deserves it and he worked his way through the ranks,’ I think Nick Diaz comes off suspension in two days. I would love to fight him on [UFC 202].

“I know his brother’s fighting [Conor McGregor in the August 20 event]. I think he deserves it. He’s a guy that’s been around the sport, he puts a lot of butts in seats, (and sells) a lot of pay-per-views, so why not put him on the card with Conor and his brother? I know he’s training already, and let him cash out. I’m willing to give him the opportunity. Or, I would like to fight Georges St-Pierre in New York City.”

Now that “UFC Welterweight Champion” is stamped on his business card, Woodley will earn a percentage of every pay-per-view he defends his belt on. Why not ride Conor McGregor’s coattails all the way to the bank considering UFC 202 is expected to be one of the biggest shows in company history?

Woodley certainly hedged his bet by challenging the controversial yet popular Diaz to a five-round title fight on just 21 days’ notice. In addition, not only has Diaz not fought since facing Anderson Silva 18 months ago, but he hasn’t beaten anyone since battering a past-his-prime BJ Penn at UFC 137 in October 2011.

It’s highly unlikely White would bite on Nick Diaz coming out of the blue to nab a title fight. However, a UFC 205 showdown against GSP at MSG in NYC sounds quite box office.

St-Pierre claimed last month that he’s finally ready to end his nearly-three-year “break from MMA” and that he’s simply waiting on the UFC to call. It might be time to pick up the bat phone, Dana.

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