EXCLUSIVE | Tyron Woodley Talks Fighting Koscheck, GSP vs. Hendricks, Condit vs. Kampmann
Last week it was announced that welterweight Tyron Woodley will make his return to the cage on November 16 at UFC 167. Woodley will face another prominent grappler in Josh Koscheck on a night dedicated to the top 170-pounders in the world.
The Woodley/Koscheck matchup joins highly-ranked contenders Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler and in the main event, UFC champion Georges St. Pierre will face No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks.
For the 31-year-old “Twood,” the call to fight Koscheck was nearly expected.
“I had it down to a science,” Woodley said. “I knew I was either going to fight Koscheck or Rick Story. Those were the only two that made sense and I’m not into taking fights that don’t make sense.”
Woodley (11-2) and Koscheck (17-7) briefly crossed paths years ago when Woodley paid a visit to Koscheck’s old gym, American Kickboxing Academy.
“Koscheck is a guy who doesn’t make you believe he likes you if he doesn’t and he doesn’t go the extra mile to be social with everybody but he’s always been respectful to me,” Woodley said. “Before I joined American Top Team I went out to AKA and was thinking about joining their team a long time ago. He was always real hospitable. We don’t have any bad history and we didn’t do much training. I think we did one day of jiu-jitsu together.”
The two are similar – superior wrestling, uber-athletic with knockout power – which could lead to an intriguing dynamic come November.
“Any time you put two wrestlers together it is always an interesting bout,” Woodley said. “It’s very difficult for wrestlers to have their way with the other guy. It’s going to be difficult for me to take him down or him to try to take me down. I respect the guy. He has done a lot for the sport. He’s chosen to take the bad guy route but his skills speak for themselves. He trains his butt off and is always in shape. All of the tools that I have in the box, he’s going to force those out. That’s the kind of fight I need.”
On Wednesday, two more top-flight welterweights, Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit will face off at UFC Fight Night 27 in another bout that will have ramifications throughout the division.
“I think that’s a great matchup,” Woodley said. “The first one was very close. It was Condit’s first fight in the UFC and I think he is hitting his stride right now. I don’t know that he’s that much better. In my opinion he was more vicious when he was in the WEC. I remember watching him standing across the cage with this demonic look on his face and he used to just tear people up. I think he’s gotten a little bit more mature and is watchful in his technique. In my opinion I think Condit might pull it out.
“I’ve petitioned to fight Condit a couple times. We’re under the same management now and I’ve had the chance to hang out with him a couple of times and I actually like Condit. But in this game, (Jake) Ellenburger, who I consider a friend, Condit, Johny Hendrix, who I’ve talked to about doing some training with but in reality it’s very hard to train with high level guys at this point in my career who I won’t possibly cross paths with.”
Though he just joined the UFC this year, Woodley has already grasped the fact that perceptions can change in a moment’s notice.
He made people forget his first loss (when Nate Marquardt delivered a viscous KO) by landing a big knockout of his own against Jay Hieron in his UFC debut. Woodley is coming off a split decision loss to Jake Shields this summer that was far from an exciting fight but he knows he can do away with that memory with an impressive performance against Koscheck.
“When I look at the landscape of the division, you can win 10 fights in a row but you don’t have to anymore,” he said. “Sometimes things work their way out. With Ellenberger losing and now this kid Rory doesn’t want to fight GSP, so now he’s going to fight Robbie Lawler, which he could possibly get knocked out and lose. Then you’ve got Kampmann and Condit fighting. If Kampmann wins, he’s been edging up to the top and keeps getting knocked down over and over again, and this could push him over the top where he could face the winner of Rory and Robbie or he could lose again so it’s really interesting.”
In the matchup between GSP and Hendricks, Woodley feels that his fellow former Big 12 wrestler has all the ingredients needed to dethrone the champ.
“I think Johny has the power, the wrestling, and the wrestling defense to get in close and sit GSP down,” he said. “GSP is a long, rangy fighter so he has the ability to keep him off with long punches and kicks. I think Johny Hendricks is smiling and having fun with it. He doesn’t even know to be scared. I think he’s going to put his chin down, throw a lead right hook and a left hand until he lands one. If GSP can’t do angles and keep away from that, I think we see him getting hit getting knocked down.”
While Woodley was a standout wrestler at the University of Missouri, he and Hendricks, who was at Oklahoma State, met a handful of times in the circle.
“In wrestling, sometimes you want to punch people and I’ve wanted to punch Johny a few times in matches,” he said. “One thing I could always say about Johny is that he always rose to the occasion. He never went undefeated in college but I remember two or three times where he always made it on to the platform. He was a four-time All-American and the two years he won (national championships), he lost several matches during the year but when it’s game time and the lights are on this kid was always one who stepped up. I think in this case he has zero to lose, he has all the momentum, he believes in his hands and his power. I think if he can get it done in three (rounds) he will be in good shape or if it goes into the fourth and fifth round then GSP is going to win by decision.”
Many moons ago, Woodley, a St. Louis product, got to know Lawler, who at the time was training on the other side of the Mississippi River in Granite City at Matt Hughes’ HIT Squad gym. The two would go on to have decorated careers in Strikeforce and are now teammates at American Top Team.
“I told him after he knocked out Matt Lindland a long time ago that whatever you doing, I’m starting to see it,” Woodley said. “He’s so young. He’s been fighting on the main stage since he was 18. Now he is my teammate at ATT. I actually got a call to fight him for the Bobby Voelker fight. But one, it was two week’s notice and two, he’s my teammate. All of the crossing of paths we’re going to do is in the training room now. But if we’re talking about world titles, then we’re going to have to sit down and have lunch and try and discuss that. I think we deserve, and our families deserve, a chance for us to be world champion if it comes down to me and Robbie being in a situation.
While Woodley has been away from the cage since losing a split decision to Jake Shields, he has found other ways to supplement his income and prepare for his post-fight career. He played multiple roles in the movie “Olympus Has Fallen” and just recently a commercial featuring NFL legend Barry Sanders for Pepsi Max was released. In that spot, Sanders is shown falling through a ceiling and crashing down on a coffee table. It was Woodley who was Sanders’ stunt double for that scene.
“For me, (stunt work) is an easier angle. I got my SAG card and I’m getting some credentials,” he said. “It’s whatever avenue that you have to take. I’ve never had to do background work. My first job was a full-paid SAG job. I’ve been on set with people who said they did background work for eight years before they got their SAG card. Down the road I see myself getting 10, 15 projects and then once I’m a world champion and a household name then Paramount, then Universal Studies will reach out like they did Georges St. Pierre for ‘Captain American,’ or Randy Couture for ‘The Expendables,’ or Ronda Rousey for ‘Fast and the Furious.’”
But the lights, camera, and action that Woodley is focused on now is the power-packed welterweight division that is one of the deepest and most talent-filled in all of MMA.
“This is the most stacked welterweight division that we have ever seen and the deepest in the world,” Woodley said. “Right now one through 30 are studs. Some guys just don’t have the name recognition. I’m always putting my name in the middle whether it’s to fight (Nick) Diaz or Condit. People already envision me as being one of those top fighters or getting close to title even though I’m not in the ‘top 10.’ I think it’s the way you carry yourself and the way you basically solicit these fights. I could fight James Head or two or three of those guys that (fellow St. Louis UFC welterweight) Lance Benoist has fought, who are really tough but aren’t in the top ten but I’m not going to fight guys like that when I could fight guys who I think I match up well against who happen to be in the top ten. For me, it’s one or two wins and we’re within a shot.”