After losing the UFC welterweight title to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235, many began to question the motivation of Tyron Woodley. Was he taking on too much? Has he gone “too Hollywood”? Does he still want to fight? All of these questions have been asked by the MMA community.
Those questions didn’t just make Woodley more motivated, it’s made him angry heading into 2020, according to his manager Abe Kawa.
“The Chosen One” will look to make a huge impact this year in hopes of reclaiming the welterweight title he held for over two years. A fight that has been widely discussed, and reported by MMA Junkie, is a matchup with Leon Edwards in the main event of the UFC’s return to London March 21.
According to Kawa, the fight isn’t signed just yet. Whether it is Edwards, or any other fighter who will stand across from Woodley next, Kawa predicts a scary former champion will emerge.
“It’s not done,” Kawa told BJPENN.com in regards to the reported matchup with Edwards. “They’re jawing at each other right now. All I’ll say is, I just feel bad for whoever has to fight Tyron next. You guys are pissing that guy off to a whole other level and a motivated Tyron is not somebody you want to see at the end of that cage. God bless whoever has to fight him next.”
Woodley became the welterweight champion when he knocked out Robbie Lawler in the first round at UFC 201 in June 2016. After fighting Stephen Thompson to a majority draw at UFC 205, and then defeating “Wonderboy” via majority decision four months later, the 37-year-old Woodley successfully defended the strap against Demian Maia and Darren Till before dropping the belt to Usman.
There has been a lot going on for Woodley outside of the Octagon — his role with TMZ, his rap and acting careers, multiple businesses he’s involved in and being a family man. While many questioned the Woodley who competed against Usman at UFC 235, Kawa believes the former champion just wasn’t himself.
“Listen, everybody knows that Tyron we saw against Usman, that’s not even the Tyron that fought Rory [MacDonald],” Kawa said. “It was a shell of that guy. We got together and tried to identify why, who and where we’re at and I think we found it. I say we because it’s always a conversation with us, between me and Tyron. And it’s always a good conversation. I’ve never had one bad conversation with him. This may sound a little off base, but it’s not mindset. You can’t tell a fighter, ‘you don’t want to fight.’ It doesn’t exist. A fighter is going to fight until he’s 90, or until he’s dead.
“So when people say he’s not motivated and his head is not in the game, that’s not necessarily true. Now, does he have a lot of things going on outside [of fighting], yes. And I encourage that. I’ll still tell him to do it and tell all my guys to do the things they want to do outside of fighting. You’ve got to think, most guys when they train — let’s say they train three times a day — they don’t train for two hours every session. That could be three hours total for the day. I’ve heard Tyron say in an interview, and he made a good point, what are they supposed to do for the other 15 hours that they’re awake? Are they just supposed to sit around and only think about fighting? That would drive a person crazy. It doesn’t work that way.”
Throughout his tenure as world champion, Tyron Woodley dealt with a lot of criticism from fans, media, and even UFC president Dana White. Woodley never had a problem with motivation as he dealt with a lot of hardships growing up and found a way out.
In Kawa’s eyes, many people forget about the road Tyron Woodley had to take to become a world champion and, in addition, has helped motivate kids around the world to find a way out of the darkness.
“Tyron is a very motivated individual,” Kawa explained. “He never wants to go broke, he never wants to be just a number and he wants to show a lot of kids in bad communities, in good communities, that if you’re a kid who came from not having much… Tyron’s story, when you just listen to it and understand where he came from, god, it’s really an inspiring story for the kid that’s out there looking that’s maybe not good at basketball, or good at football, his golf swing is terrible, maybe the tennis shorts don’t do it for them, Tyron gave people a way out. He’s shown kids, ‘look, you’ve got two hands. Get in the gym, do some work and see what happens.’
“When you start looking at it like that, he’s giving kids an option to get out of the hood, get out of whatever bad options they have, because when you come out of that environment, you’re options aren’t good: it’s go gang bang, go sell drugs, go do something stupid. You really don’t have a good option. Tyron found a good option in wrestling, he learned how to box, become the welterweight champion of the world. I love Tyron. He’s an amazing human being.”
Tyron Woodley’s return will be a fascinating story heading into 2020. Kawa believes that the Woodley we saw in the fight against Robbie Lawler when he became champion — the stalking, violent power striker that finished one of the most durable fighters in UFC history — will be similar to the guy who returns to the cage.
In essence, Kawa says that the negativity and the questions have awoken something very scary and old-school inside of his client, and now receipts will be handed out.
“Tyron’s mentality is not tied to his music, it’s not tied to his acting, it’s not tied to the different businesses he’s a part of. It’s not tied to that when it comes to fighting,” Kawa explained. “When it comes to fighting, it comes down to the decision that kid had to make; are you going to stay gang banging and doing some crazy s**t, or are you going to get your mom out of the hood and take care of your family?
“When he walked into that fight with Usman, you’ve got to understand, we are all talking and saying, ‘Where’s Usman gonna beat you at? I don’t really understand where Usman can beat you.’ I think maybe that’s where everything came into play. You want to make sure you keep your guys confident and that may have gotten to him. I don’t want to give people the reasoning or what not, but all I can say is saying ‘motivated Tyron’ is kind of unfair, because he wakes up motivated every single day. An angry Tyron Woodley is a scary Tyron Woodley. You don’t know what you’re asking for out of this man. I looked at him and said, ‘It’s time to show the world your anger. It’s time to show what being in a cage and fighting you really is.'”
Do you think Tyron Woodley can reclaim the UFC welterweight title?