Tyron Woodley's weekend: A risk, a fracture and a crucial UFC win

Tyron Woodley's weekend: A risk, a fracture and a crucial UFC win

Published Feb. 6, 2015 12:50 p.m. ET

ST. LOUIS -- Unless you are a UFC fan, you probably have no idea who is the baddest professional athlete in this part of the world.

But if you read this and think you still know someone who's tougher than Tyron Woodley, let me know. Because if there's anyone out there who can accomplish what the St. Louis welterweight contender managed last week, that person would make a heckuva story.

In a nutshell, this was Woodley's weekend:

He went to Las Vegas to fight in the co-event of UFC 183 for a bout he badly needed to win to stay in the championship picture.


He arrived at the weigh-in to see his opponent, up-and-comer Kelvin Gastelum, miss weight -- and not by a little. By nine pounds. "That may have been a Vegas record," Woodley says.

But Woodley made the decision to go on with the fight even though he essentially would be facing a middleweight instead of someone in his own 170-pound weight class. "I came to fight and fight we shall," he said in a statement. Not only that, he refused to accept the portion of Gastelum's purse he was due because of the weight violation.

While Gastelum would be fined, that would be a small price to pay if he won the fight. For Woodley, a loss would be just as costly. It would not come with an asterisk just because the winner was overweight. Some speculated, in fact, that Gastelum intentionally came in heavy to improve his chances of out-grappling Woodley.

So the fight goes on and sometime early on, Woodley breaks his right foot when he goes to kick Gastelum. Gastelum raises his arms and Woodley's foot runs into an elbow. At full impact. "I remember saying to myself, don't make a face, don't grimace," Woodley says.

But he kept on fighting. He kept on kicking, too. "Way too many times," Woodley says. "I kicked inside, outside, high, low. I don't think continuing to kick helped it."

Woodley also stuck to his plan of moving around the cage, attempting to "silence all those" who say he is too muscular to have the stamina to last three rounds at a brisk pace.

Most important, Woodley won the fight. It was a split-decision victory that did not draw -€“ or deserve -- consideration for any fight-of-the-night bonuses. But Woodley's mission was accomplished. The victory keeps him in the middle of the welterweight championship picture, perhaps as close as one win away from a chance at the title.

Because his adrenaline had taken over, Woodley says he doesn't think his injured foot affected his fighting. He did not realize he might have suffered a serious injury until he was walking down stairs after the fight and the pain kicked in.

Still, Woodley walked -- actually, he was limping by now -- all over the MGM Grand for post-fight interviews while pushing his mom in a wheelchair. Not until he returned to his room did he think about crutches.

And not until two days later did he go for X-rays and learned that yes, indeed he had broken his right foot.

Woodley was placed in a temporary cast and ordered to stay off the foot for six weeks. If the bones have fully healed by then, he can resume training. That's the best-case scenario.

There's still a chance he will need surgery, which would include inserting a pin or two to hold the bones together. His return to the cage then could be delayed another two to three months.

"Despite my foot, despite him missing weight, despite all the other distractions, I was able to get the fight in and get the win. I feel blessed and thankful," Woodley said. "But it was a crazy night."

Now he's even calling the injury a "blessing in disguise." He wasn't planning to fight again soon anyway to allow some time for the welterweight title picture to sort out, but he was going to be busy with appearances and traveling to Hollywood to work on his blossoming movie career. He also was planning to keep his conditioning sharp just in case an opportunity came around.

But putting all that on hold is OK. Something more important is on the horizon.

His wife, Averi, is pregnant and with three boys ages 3, 6 and 11, this time the Woodleys are expecting a daughter. Averi is due in March, and Woodley says he now will be "folding onesies" and spending his time at home instead of traveling around as a celebrity.

"Really and honestly, I think this was God's blessing," Woodley said. "I've wanted a daughter my whole life. I was about to be gone and miss the preparation for it. But I need to be with family now. This is our first daughter."

So yes, he has a soft spot for family. As he should. Still, after last weekend, I don't think you want to question his toughness.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.