While both Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler have American Top Team affiliations, the UFC 201 headlining combatants aren’t your typical training partners.
During a recent media session in Los Angeles, Lawler pointed out that he has rarely crossed paths with Woodley since he set up shop in Coconut Creek, Fla. Woodley, meanwhile, trains primarily out of the St. Louis-based ATT Evolution camp.
"Woodley was there before me, he's been part of ATT long before I got there, but he hasn't been down in Coconut Creek doing his training camps. Like I don't think he's been down there for two years and he was rarely down there before so I don't really look at him as a teammate," Lawler said.
Woodley confirms that he and Lawler have only wrestled and sparred a handful of times and he doesn’t take the welterweight champion’s comments personally. In fact, even though ATT owner Dan Lambert initially offered Woodley the chance to train in Florida for UFC 201, the Strikeforce veteran thought better of it.
“For me in general I’ve been blessed to have hospitality from several different camps I’ve been able to train at and get an approval by the American Top Team guys to go anywhere,” Woodley said during a conference call last week. “So in this situation, Robbie was the first guy that brought home UFC gold from the American Top Team. It just feels like the right thing to do to give him the home court advantage, to train 100 percent there and make things as professional as possible.”
However, Woodley scoffs at the notion that he might be less of an ATT representative than Lawler based on his location. The 34-year-old believes that he has more than put in his time with the renowned camp, even if he isn’t always present at the home base.
“His thoughts on what a teammate is, it’s what he said: A lot of training side by side and getting guys ready. But my idea of a person who’s affiliated with the American Top Team, I feel like I encompass all those things,” Woodley said. “I started out as an amateur with American Top Team. I was a coach for four of the top five or so of the American Top Teams. I was a bag of bones, f---ing getting thrown around, sparring two times a day and that was my role at that position.
“I was just a sparring partner. Then I progressed to the position where I’m at right now and I’m on the American Top Team. And I put my own fight money, my own money behind the name and the brand. But I feel like I am American Top Team,” he continued. “And I encompass everything that it stands for. His concept is that you should be there, down there, live there, train there and he’s allowed his own opinion of it, and no, I did not take it personal.”
While teammate vs. teammate conflicts have led to bitter breakups in the past (see Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans, for example), Woodley believes his matchup with Lawler is a positive thing for the ATT brand and everyone involved.
“At the end of the day, a lot of people have been talking about the fact that we are affiliated or wear the same patch on our shorts or swing the same banner, but I believe there’s honor in that,” Woodley said. “I’m a person who believes that if a team that’s producing a champion and producing contenders in that same division, then the coaches should be proud of that and pat themselves on the back because they’re really creating a dynasty, so that’s the way I take it.”