Following his upset win over Carlos Condit at UFC 171, Tyron Woodley was riding high towards a No. 3 ranking in the welterweight division and standing directly in the path of a potential title shot against Johny Hendricks.
Woodley’s hopes were dashed when it was revealed Hendricks suffered a torn bicep in his title win over Robbie Lawler, putting him out of action until sometime in the fall. So with Hendricks out of the picture, Woodley’s attention turned to No. 2 ranked welterweight Rory MacDonald for his next fight.
The former Missouri wrestler saw the writing on the wall about facing MacDonald the minute he took a shot at him during a UFC conference call when he was told the young Canadian believed he was next in line for a title shot following a win over Demian Maia.
"I was very vocal that I deserved it and that Rory (MacDonald) and Nick Diaz might have been sharing the same bag of weed, when I said that I knew I just talked myself into a fight. Me fighting him was something that was inevitable," Woodley told the Great MMA Debate podcast.
It didn’t take long for the UFC to make the fight official for June 14 as the co-main event for UFC 174. With Hendricks sidelined until late in 2014, the fight between Woodley and MacDonald seemed poised to serve as a No. 1 contender fight with the winner moving on to the title bout when the champion was healthy.
I think Dana White says a lot of things — I’ll never do this, I’ll never do that, I’ll never sign a woman to the UFC, anybody that was on this EA Sports video game will never fight in the UFC — I think performances stand out.
— Tyron Woodley
So it came as a shock when UFC president Dana White announced recently that the new main event for FOX UFC Saturday in San Jose between Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown would serve as the fight to determine the next contender in the welterweight division. Needless to say, Woodley wasn’t very happy but then again he also didn’t read too much into it.
This wouldn’t be the first time White has declared a fight as a No. 1 contender’s match only to see the winner not actually receive a title shot. That’s why Woodley isn’t over concerned about what’s being promised right now.
Until a contract is in hand, nothing is guaranteed.
"My reaction is if I go out there and fight Rory and put the whooping on Rory like he’s never had before, I think I’ll be fighting for the title," Woodley said. "I think Dana White says a lot of things — I’ll never do this, I’ll never do that, I’ll never sign a woman to the UFC, anybody that was on this EA Sports video game will never fight in the UFC — I think performances stand out.
"I think that’s what my plan was anyways. Go out and put on a high level performance against a high level guy and really just stay focused on that and let everything fall into place."
While Matt Brown may be standing in his way of fighting for the belt, Woodley can agree with the Ohio native on one major point — none of this talk matters if he doesn’t win the fight that’s in front of him.
Woodley knows at the end of the day performances speak louder than words, and even if he obliterates MacDonald in the first two minutes of their fight this weekend in Vancouver, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll earn a title shot. There’s no forcing the hand of the UFC, so words like ‘deserved’ don’t really hold any weight except for promotional bluster.
"That’s the only thing that’s in my control. I can’t force Dana White, Lorenzo, Joe Silva to make me fight Johny Hendricks. I can’t make them not let somebody else do it," Woodley said. "The only thing I can control is my preparation for UFC 174, my skills and what I do in a fight, and then I just put it in God’s hands.
"I think winning streaks and who beat who — when you beat the No. 1 and No. 2 guy in the weight division and you beat both of them back-to-back, a vicious knockout on (Josh) Koscheck before then, I think that should be enough, but we’ll see."
The biggest thing on Woodley’s mind right now isn’t a title shot as much as he’d love to have the gold wrapped around his waste. Looking past MacDonald or any opponent is like juggling dynamite and Woodley won’t make that mistake.
He saw it happen to another top 10 welterweight just recently and it served as a painful reminder to hype a fight and answer the questions posed to you, but never get distracted from the obstacle standing directly in your path.
"We saw what happened to Jake Ellenberger. He was already writing off me and Rory’s bout and talking about Johny Hendricks and he went out there and got the S knocked out of him," Woodley said. "My plan is not to do that, I want to give this guy the respect he deserves. I want to go out there and take on one of the best guys and take him out."