At the end of July, Tyron Woodley left the MMA community stunned as he picked up a spectacular first round knockout win over Robbie Lawler in the main event of UFC 203. The win not only earned Woodley the UFC welterweight championship, but marked just the second time over the course of Lawler’s fifteen year professional MMA career that he had been stopped.
Following the win, Woodley opted to challenge former welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre and MMA veteran Nick Diaz to fights, rather than look for a fight with welterweight #1 contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. While Woodley caught criticism for the move, he ultimately was booked to fight Stephen Thompson at UFC 205.
During an interview with BloodyElbow, Woodley spoke about why he feels that he was criticized for looking for a ‘money fight’:
“The same thing that I might say has been done by other non-African American athletes, it’s been OK. Michael Bisping’s fighting the 12th or 13th ranked guy. I love Dan Henderson. He’s done a crapload for my career — he was my first sponsor with Clinch Gear. Yeah, I love Dan Henderson. I’ve trained with him.”
“But, if you look at the sport, if you look at the sport’s purists, he’s not the person that probably should deserve a title shot. Maybe ‘Jacare’ Souza, maybe a rematch with Luke Rockhold, maybe Chris Weidman, whoever. But, this fight makes sense why? Because Bisping wanted the fight, and because this fight could draw some money. But if I do that, now it’s an issue.”
While Woodley’s comments could be taken the wrong way, he was quick to explain that the issue wasn’t with the UFC, and it wasn’t a matter of racism, simply the unknown of an untapped market, which he believes he can aid the UFC in reaching:
“I’m not going to say it’s the UFC, it’s an untapped market and unknown market,” Woodley explained. “And people that go into unknown markets don’t really know if the money invested in it will come back tenfold, if it would come back to more viewers.”
“But what better athlete to utilize and go and grab that market? Somebody who lived on the street that was rioting in Ferguson. I didn’t live around, I don’t live near there…like, I can walk to the place that was kicked in and rioted in a three-minute, four-minute walk from my home.
“So why not utilize that person, who’s been in historic, iconic films like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ or stunts and acting, but still own a gym, still a father, still a husband, still a FOX analyst?”