Tyron Woodley (right) file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Standout collegiate wrestlers often take the fast track in MMA.
Cain Velasquez debuted in the UFC with two fights under his belt. UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar fought once before climbing into the Octagon against Frank Mir. Later this month Velasquez and Lesnar meet in a title bout, and between them they still have less than 15 fights total.
A two-time All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, Tyron Woodley is taking a different route. A slower route.
Woodley fought -- and won -- seven times as an amateur. As a professional he’s 8-0 and steadily increasing his level of competition as he builds a resume that includes wins by brabo choke, arm-triangle choke and rear-naked choke in addition to finishes via strikes.
There are downsides to a slow rise, though, just as there are upsides to leaping up the ladder. Money is one factor. Fighters don’t make much in small shows and prelim bouts, and most don’t make anything at all when they’re not fighting. Woodley’s bout Saturday in Strikeforce against Andre Galvao will be only his second this year.
“Financially I started to dry out a little bit just because you don’t make those big-money purses until you get on those big-money cards and fight those big-money opponents,” Woodley said Monday during an episode of “The Savage Dog Show” on the Sherdog Radio Network. “Financially it was a sacrifice to kind of wait it out for the right situation.”
Unlike some up-and-comers who will jump at any chance, Woodley said he has turned down offers.
“Some of those bouts I declined because I didn’t want to just take them on seven days’ notice,” he said. “But all in all, I would love to be fighting three or four times a year. Four times would be great. Five would be amazing. So for me to get one or two fights a year is kind of not enough for me because the thing I’m lacking is experience.”
Woodley doesn’t seem interested in simply adding wins to his record, however. He’s looking for quality experience. He sees his climb as a careful one.
“You don’t want everybody just thinking you’re that person they can throw out there to the wolves,” Woodley said. “Each fight, each career move should be a good one towards the title. I feel like I’ve been very, very patient and I think it’s time for me to start making steps in the right direction. I’m with a good organization that basically is doing that. They got me fighting and moving closer and closer towards my goal. I don’t think I’m far from it, but obviously I have to get through (Galvao) first and focus on that.”
Like Woodley, Galvao is also a top welterweight talent working his way up the ranks. Woodley has a strong amateur wrestling pedigree, but Galvao is a world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
“I’m going to have to submit him,” Woodley said when asked how he would beat Galvao.
This answer was followed by a period of silence. Woodley then let loose a big laugh while explaining that he was joking and no, he won’t actually try to sub a BJJ world champ.
“I do that on purpose because every time somebody asks me what should I try to do, I say, ‘I’m going to submit him,’ and then it gets real quiet,” Woodley said before turning serious. “I’m going to plan on having to give out 15 minutes’ worth of beating because he’s a tough guy. He’s a strong guy. He’s probably going to want to get some of his best positions, and it’s probably to my advantage to, if I get there, isolate him, get my punches, get my ground-and-pound off, get to a position where he has limited submissions.
“I don’t want to be hanging out in half guard too much or hanging out in full guard because he does a lot of sweeps. He does a lot of armbars and he’s crafty at what he does. He takes the back well. For me it’s just (about) keeping him out of his dominant positions, pushing the pace and staying in his face.”
Should Woodley get by Galvao, his unhurried ascent might be over. A victorious Woodley will likely find himself in title contention. Division champion Nick Diaz will be defending against K.J. Noons in the main event Saturday, and Woodley will be watching.
“I’m going to be very interested and watching,” Woodley said. “Get through my fight first and foremost, but after that, yeah, I’m sitting down and I’m watching and I’m seeing what’s happening because I should be pretty close. I should be pretty close to getting up in the mix. It’s time to actually start looking at these opponents, how they perform with different styles, so when it’s my turn, I’m well prepared.”
Check out the full interview (beginning at 58:45) with Woodley, who also talked about ignoring his own hype and wanting to fight again in 2010.