UFC's Tyron Woodley on chaos in hometown of Ferguson: 'It's like Iraq'
AUG 20, 2014 1:10p ET
If you see anything posted on Tyron Woodley's Twitter feed or Facebook page this week, it probably won't be from him.
Woodley's coaches have banned him from accessing social media leading up to his fight with Dong Hyun Kim at UFC Fight Night on Fight Pass on Saturday in Macao. The images from the tragedy and ensuing turmoil in Ferguson, Mo. -- Woodley's hometown -- have become haunting for him.
"It's kind of a distraction," Woodley told FOX Sports. "No more Facebook, no more reading things and watching these videos about Ferguson. These things are all happening about two minutes from where I live."
Two weeks ago in Ferguson -- a predominantly African-American suburb of St. Louis -- a black youth, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, sparking outcries from the community.
“It's almost like they're at war. It's like Iraq. The best thing I can do from this far away is support the positive. There's nothing wrong with protesting, to peacefully assemble, but also be sure it's peaceful.”
Protests in Ferguson have been met with law enforcement in riot gear. Tear gas and rubber bullets have been used. Journalists have been detained. The protests have turned more intense, and some nearby stores have been looted.
Woodley was in town last week and drove through his neighborhood one morning after an ugly night of unrest. He couldn't believe what he saw: auto-parts stores, Walmarts, meat markets and beauty salons, all torn apart by looting.
"If I put this video on the Internet, you wouldn't even believe it," Woodley said. "It's so horrible."
Woodley, 32, has mixed emotions about the entire thing. He doesn't think the protests should have escalated. But he also doesn't agree with the force used by cops. On top of that, the looting drives him crazy.
"It's almost like they're at war," Woodley said. "It's like Iraq. ... The best thing I can do from this far away is support the positive. There's nothing wrong with protesting, to peacefully assemble, but also be sure it's peaceful."
With all of this going on near his family, Woodley has to somehow focus on Kim. This is a huge fight for the former Missouri star wrestler. Woodley is coming off a tough loss to Rory MacDonald at UFC 174 in June. A win over Kim, ranked No. 10 among UFC welterweight contenders, allows him a chance to get back on the path toward a title shot. Woodley is still ranked No. 4.
"The best thing I can do for my city this far away is go out and show that someone who's from that environment is doing something with their life -- has a college education, is a pro athlete, a stunt actor, a gym owner, an entrepreneur," Woodley said. "I am all of those things, and I'm from Ferguson."
Indeed, Woodley does have the chance to send a powerful message as a pro athlete from the town. Don't think that won't be weighing on his mind when he steps in the Octagon against Kim.
After that, though, Woodley will be going home. He wants to help the cleanup process.
“That's my neighborhood. I don't want to drive by and see broken up glass. It looked like a landfill when I went by there.”
"That's my neighborhood," Woodley said. "I don't want to drive by and see broken-up glass. It looked like a landfill when I went by there."
The entire thing has been surreal to Woodley. He watches news reports and he sees places in the background that he has gone to his entire life.
"You see these things and you hear about them and think, 'Oh, that sucks' and go back to your regular lives," Woodley said. "Things don't get real until they get close."
This is as close as it gets for Woodley, even though he's almost 8,000 miles away.