Things could get a little awkward at American Top Team in the next few months.
As one of the sport’s largest and most talent-laden camps, the ATT family has roots all over the United States and worldwide. Come UFC 201, two of its own will square off for welterweight gold when reigning champion Robbie Lawler defends his crown against Tyron Woodley in Atlanta on July 30.
Lawler brought ATT its first UFC championship when he defeated Johny Hendricks to win the belt at UFC 181 in December 2014. The longtime Octagon veteran will always hold a special spot in the history of the Coconut Creek, Fla.-based team for that feat, but he could be sharing the same facility with Woodley at some point prior to UFC 201.
Woodley calls St. Louis’ ATT Evolution home, but he often ventures to Florida to train when he has a fight approaching. This time he was reconsidering that plan because of the potential conflict of interest until he got a call from gym owner Dan Lambert.
“He was like, ‘[F—k] that, bring your [ass] down here.’ So looks like I kinda got checked,” Woodley said during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “It looks like I’ll go down there for a couple days, maybe a week, maybe two weeks, see how it feels. If it’s something that I don’t feel like is as uncomfortable as many would think, maybe I do more weeks there.”
However things play out, Woodley doesn’t expect to spend much time exchanging pleasantries with Lawler as their fight approaches. That has nothing to do with any animosity between the two men, however, as the two are friendly, if not especially close. It’s simply the Lawler way.
“I don’t think me and Robbie are on that level. Robbie’s the kind of guy, it’s not personal to him. But he is not going to be overly friendly to anybody come weigh-in, facedown or fight,” Woodley said. “Before and after those moments, yeah he’s respectful and friendly. But I just remember just when he was fighting Johny [Hendricks], he was like, ‘No man I ain’t going to be smiling with you.’
“I can’t expect that we’re going to be sharing dinner. We went to dinner a couple times in Florida and hung out [in the past]. I don’t think that’s going to be going down. But he respects me. I know he does. And I respect him. He knows I do. It’s not like we have to make this bitter rivalry that doesn’t exist.”
When the two ATT stablemates finally do square off in the Octagon, Woodley will try to avoid being baited into Lawler’s preferred style of fight. He believes many of the champion’s recent foes lost when they could have won because the elected to brawl with “Ruthless.”
“If you think about Robbie Lawler and his game, he thrives off the brawl, he thrives off the in-close battle and exchanging back and forth. It’s not very advantageous for an opponent to fight him that way. Johny Hendricks couldn’t fight him that way. Carlos Condit can’t fight him that way. Rory MacDonald can’t fight him that way,” Woodley said. “When you see those guys that don’t possess that knockout power, wrestling ability to fight him in close quarters they’ve come up short. MacDonald did well. But think about how he lost the fight. It wasn’t when he was moving laterally, snapping kicks, striking with his jab. It’s when he stood in front of Robbie Lawler. The same thing with Carlos Condit. If Condit had moved a little more to avoid that last onslaught in the fifth round, he might’ve seen a different result. Johny Hendricks can do that. He had the power, he had the wrestling.”
Woodley, a two-time All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, believes his skill set most closely mirrors Hendricks, who defeated Lawler at UFC 171 to win the vacant welterweight strap before losing their rematch.
“Now I’m a guy like Johny that has the power, that has the wrestling. I can win in that position as well. Do I have to? No. I think I’m faster. I think I’m a better wrestler. I think I’m a better grappler. I think I can put things together,” Woodley said. “I think I can get close to Robbie Lawler before he can notice and I can also disappear as fast as I got there.
“I don’t have to fight that up-close brawl, but even in that brawl in front of him I can still win that fight. I can still knock Robbie Lawler out in a brawl. With that said, I’m very confident going into this fight. It’s a very good matchup for me and I think either way it goes it’s an entertaining fight for the fans.”