Tyron Woodley: Johny Hendricks is not a better wrestler than me

Tyron Woodley ready to go to the mat with Johny Hendricks again

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Tyron Woodley spent Saturday night picking up the biggest win of his MMA career when he defeated former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit in the second round of their matchup at UFC 171.  In just about every moment since the finish, Woodley has been defending the performance against critics who say the fight only ended because of Condit’s injury while also fighting claims that he was gassing out just five minutes into the bout.

Woodley’s public battle starts with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, who he believes was biased in his call of the action during the fight with Condit.  Before he even stepped into the Octagon, Woodley thinks Rogan was making accusations about his body type that immediately stuck in the minds of those people watching the fight from home.

It only mounted in the second round when Woodley didn’t come out guns blazing looking to get into a knockdown, drag out fight with Condit and instead approached the fight with a more tactical game plan.

"We have guys like Joe Rogan that have something about guys that are physically gifted that it translates to you getting tired, which is annoying as hell," Woodley told FOX Sports.  "I think sometimes when you watch CNN or FOX or ABC or NBC, whatever station you watch, they have a certain mood and tone they try to make with the news.  They almost try to brainwash you into seeing issues, and the same issues can be seen completely different. 

"Before I even walk out there he’s talking about my muscles and how guys are built like that, it can be a gift, it can be a curse.  You’re already putting that into the fans and spectators minds.  I train too damn hard, I work too hard, I live too close to the line for anybody to ever mention my name with cardio."

Woodley relates Rogan’s reference to more muscular athletes dealing with cardio issues to a racial stereotype that African-Americans dealt with for many years while competing in professional sports.  The former Missouri Tiger is in no way claiming racism, but he sees this as a similar case of writing the narrative for a competitor based on physical appearance.

That’s almost like the old days with African-American athletes — ‘oh he’s just an athlete, he’s just athletic’. That’s disregarding my work ethic.You’re discrediting me and it pisses me off

— Tyron Woodley on Joe Rogan's UFC 171 commentary

"That’s almost like the old days with African-American athletes — ‘oh he’s just an athlete, he’s just athletic’.  That’s disregarding my work ethic, my running, my sprints, my Versaclimber, anything that I’m doing, you’re discrediting me and it pisses me off," Woodley said.

What Woodley would rather do than argue about his conditioning and whether or not he should get full credit for finishing Condit by TKO because the former WEC champion suffered a knee injury in the second round is to discuss his shot at the UFC welterweight title. 

Prior to UFC 171 taking place it was all but guaranteed that if Condit were to win, he was going to face the eventual champion in the next title fight in the welterweight division.  While Woodley wasn’t extended that same courtesy before the event started, he believes he did everything necessary by taking out Condit to earn the opportunity to compete for the belt.

"We need someone that’s going to get it off merit, because they deserve it, because they’re marketable, because they’ll sell pay-per-views," Woodley said.  "Also because when I’m the No. 10 or 11 (ranked), or whatever I was, and I beat the No. 2 guy, you can’t beat the No. 6 guy or whatever and jump ahead."

The other factor that Woodley has playing in his favor is the history he shares with UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks.  Before they were welterweights at the top of the UFC rankings, Hendricks and Woodley were competing in wrestling against each other as part of the Big 12.  Hendricks at Oklahoma State would go on to win two National titles as well as become a four-time All-American, and while Woodley didn’t come close to that level of accomplishment while wrestling at the University of Missouri, he knows deep down in a one-on-one match, he was still the better grappler.

The rivalry was so fierce that when Woodley first transitioned from wrestling to MMA, he did everything in his power to land a fight with Hendricks inside the cage.

"Me and Johny Hendricks have a ton of history," Woodley said.  "He’s always rose to the occasion.  In the NCAA’s, when everything was on the line, he rose to the occasion and stepped up and he won those titles and he was an All-American four times.  When me and Johny wrestled it was wars. Johny’s not a better wrestler than me.  There’s some unfortunate things that happened in those matches that assured him the win, but he’s not a better wrestler than me. 

"I’m kind of over those things now, but when I first started fighting I was trying to get Matt Lindland, and all these guys to line me up with him because I wanted to fight him.  I was pissed off."

It’s easy to look at Hendricks’ career record and the laundry list of accomplishments that he achieved as a wrestler at Oklahoma State when compared to Woodley’s own accolades and say it’s not even close as to who was better.  Woodley concedes that in college Hendricks definitely went further and won more gold, but that doesn’t mean he’s better than him on the mats.

Johny Hendricks is not a better wrestler than me. His credentials are longer than mine, but he’s not a better wrestler than me. We can dust off the Asics right now if it came down to it

— Tyron Woodley 

In fact, Woodley is more than happy to prove that to Hendricks if he’s ever game.

"Johny Hendricks is not a better wrestler than me.  I can’t give him that," Woodley said.  "He has better credentials, he’s won two National titles and he’s a four-time All-American.  His credentials are longer than mine, but he’s not a better wrestler than me.  We can dust off the Asics right now if it came down to it."

For Woodley’s last fight against Condit he decided to text message UFC president Dana White non-stop until he finally gave in and made the matchup.  This time around, Woodley isn’t going to text anybody or start a public bashing campaign going after Hendricks just to secure the shot.

In his mind, Woodley already earned the fight against Hendricks when he beat Carlos Condit and became the first fighter under the UFC or WEC banner to finish the former champion.  All he’s waiting for now is a call from White offering him the title shot against Hendricks, preferably over July 4 weekend in Las Vegas.

"I think it makes for a compelling matchup," Woodley said.  "I think this is the headliner for the UFC card in Vegas (in July) with the UFC expo. It’s a big, big fight."