Tyron Woodley says Ronda Rousey is two years ahead of her division. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As a former Strikeforce athlete, Tyron Woodley had the privilege of seeing women’s MMA -- and Ronda Rousey and Cristiane Justino, in particular -- rise to prominence.
Back then, both Rousey and “Cyborg” were impressive champions at a time when women were not allowed to compete in the UFC. Now, Rousey has elevated the sport to a new level and is arguably the Las Vegas-based promotion’s biggest star. If it happens, Rousey vs. Justino has all the makings of a pay-per-view blockbuster.
Woodley is just as intrigued by Rousey’s rise to prominence and the growth of women’s MMA as any fan might be.
“I got a chance to watch Ronda come up; I got a chance to watch ‘Cyborg’ destroy many women. I think it’s great we’re even having this conversation right now,” Woodley said during a recent appearance on Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “...I’m in the airport and I see 50-year-old women looking at this Ronda Rousey clip on her phone. I hear people talking about it. I was just sitting there. People didn’t even know who I was, and I just hear them talking about Ronda Rousey’s last fight.”
However, the UFC welterweight contender also thinks the hypothetical Rousey-Cyborg matchup just might be a little bit overvalued, but it all depends on the circumstances. For now, the debate regarding the fight always comes back to weight: Rousey insists that her rival meet her at bantamweight, while Justino has suggested a 140-pound catch-weight. Meanwhile, UFC President Dana White insists that nothing will happen unless the Brazilian proves she can tip the scales at 135.
According to Woodley, it might not matter if Rousey keeps going the way she has been.
“We’re not gonna see this fight happen for six months at least. And what happens is, if Cyborg makes the weight she’s gonna come down and lose the power, some of the things that make her who she is,” Woodley said. “Also, you’re gonna give Ronda Rousey six more months to get better. We haven’t even seen all of her training displayed in the Octagon because nobody can last a minute. I think the if it’s Cyborg we saw in Strikeforce [against] to the Ronda Rousey we saw [at UFC 190], it is a competitive fight. “Now we’re seeing the Cyborg clear of any performance enhancing drugs, she would have to cut all the way down in weight, by the time that happens... we’re going to continue to see Rousey develop for another six to eight months, maybe a year,” he continued. “I don’t think it’s as competitive as people think it will be.”
Woodley uses himself as an example to explain why Rousey might be reluctant to move up in weight.
“It’s like comparing me to Chris Weidman,” he said. “No way in hell are you gonna watch me walk in there and be competitive with Chris Weidman or any of those killers at 185.”
Of course, Woodley neglects to mention that Rousey did previously compete at 145 pounds in her first two Strikeforce appearances. Her bout with Miesha Tate for the Strikeforce bantamweight title also marked her debut in the division.
Regardless, Woodley, like much of the MMA community, sees Rousey as a transcendent talent.
“I think Ronda Rousey is continually getting better; I think she’s two years ahead of her entire division,” Woodley said. “Before people catch up she’s probably going to be retired and a full-time actress.”
Still, Woodley could see the competitor in Rousey eventually making a concession to face Cyborg at a catch-weight. If it happened, it wouldn’t be because of any outside influence.
“I think she would have to do it just because she wants to show herself. I don’t think she is going to succumb to the peer pressure and the pressure of the media, and the naysayers. She’s wiped out a division,” Woodley said. “I think she would do it because she’s a competitor, she wants to shut her up and show what she’s made of . But should she do it? Should she have to do it? It doesn’t affect her legacy either way.
“She doesn’t have to take that fight to sustain her being the most dominant female fighter.”