Not long after Tyron Woodley knocked out Robbie Lawler to claim the welterweight crown at UFC 201, he set his sights on a pair of high-profile opponents.
One of those was Nick Diaz, whose suspension for a positive marijuana test at UFC 183 ended last summer. While Diaz is cleared to compete, there are currently no fights on the horizon for the Stockton, Calif., native. The other option that interested Woodley was ex-champ Georges St. Pierre, who in June had expressed a desire to end a hiatus from the sport that began in late 2013.
Now, St. Pierre is officially back in the UFC fold after recently signing a new contract with the Las Vegas-based promotion. However, Woodley is more focused on his rematch with Stephen Thompson, the man he initially dismissed after vanquishing Lawler, than any “money fights” the future might hold.
“I’m not worried about GSP right now. I don’t have time to go back-and-forth on that roller coaster ride,” Woodley said during a teleconference on Thursday. “‘Wonderboy’" is getting a second opportunity; he’s in a win-win situation. I’m gonna go out there and do my thing. That’s all I can focus on right now.”
Woodley and Thompson will square off for a second time in the UFC 209 main event on March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Their first meeting at UFC 205 resulted in a draw, although it could be argued that it was Woodley who authored the bout’s most definitive moments.
In round one, the American Top Team product took Thompson down and bloodied his adversary with elbows from top position. Things looked even more dire for “Wonderboy” in the fourth frame, when he was dropped by a Woodley right hand and later trapped in what appeared to be a tight guillotine choke. Meanwhile, Thompson used his crisp striking and movement to win the other three rounds, though none was as emphatic as Woodley’s effort in the fourth stanza.
With that in mind, Woodley isn’t especially worried about any changes his opponent might make in their rematch.
“I’m not concerned about anything. What did he do to me in the last fight that should make me concerned? I’m not the one that got knocked down, nearly submitted, completely dominated in the first round,” Woodley said. “There’s nothing he did in the fight and there’s nothing he could have done in a training camp that’s going to make him that much different of a fighter. I’m not concerned. I don’t take him for granted. I don’t take any opponent lightly. He didn’t surprise me with anything he did. I actually expected him to do a little bit more.”
Did Woodley really want an immediate rematch? That isn’t necessarily clear, but the sometimes controversial champion is content to say all the right things as UFC 209 approaches. His long-term goal is to be known as the greatest welterweight of all-time. To surpass those who came before him, including St. Pierre, Woodley must prove he can successfully defend the title he won last year.
“Not many people are interested in my thoughts. They want me to say what should be said, so that’s what I’m gonna do,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m in great shape. I feel so much better than I did the first time I fought him. I thought during that fight I put on a great performance. Going into this fight I’m so confident. I’m all positive right now. I can’t wait to go out and prove to the world that I’m the best welterweight in the history of our sport.”