Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champ Tyron Woodley got real on Media Day for a few minutes.
Arriving to the UFC’s Virtual Media Day on Thursday as the first fighter to sit before the screen and answer questions, Woodley sat down wearing an N95 mask that remained on for the extent of the digital scrum. Among the many topics he discussed included the hard times he experienced following his 2019 championship defeat to Kamaru Usman.
Although Woodley ultimately claimed that he grew as a fighter following the one-sided decision loss to Usman at UFC 235, he did not initially take it well.
“I went into a state of depression for a while,” he admitted before mentioning that his diet and life suffered as a result of the loss. Eventually, Woodley pushed through it. “I got to the point where I felt like I faced it head-on. I felt [the loss] was necessary for my journey.”
Woodley tried to encapsulate all that he was feeling following the Usman fight, but could not pinpoint it to any specific thing.
“[I] Wasn’t really in my body,” he expressed. “[I was] Focused on moving forward from [losing to Usman].” As he tried to break down what went wrong, he flatly stated that one would have to be a fighter to understand what he was going through. The loss to Usman snapped a seven-fight unbeaten streak for “The Chosen One,” the longest such streak since starting his career at 10-0.
Getting past this tough stretch required Woodley to go back to what got him to the proverbial dance.
“For me it was basically reprioritizing my life,” he said, “A lot of getting rid of things that didn’t belong…I just got to the basics.” Part of the issues Woodley considered were that his goal was too far in front of him -- in this instance, surpassing the title defense streak of Georges St. Pierre. He felt that doing so lost him the belt.
A newly refreshed Woodley has a different vantage point in the division and the sport as a whole. Instead of pursuing his never-ending title streak and continuing to “just win,” the 38-year-old has another plan in mind.
“For the rest of my career, just winning is never gonna be enough for me,” he claimed. The loss, although it was a temporary setback, has ultimately led to a transformation, according to the Missouri native.
“It’s a more prepared, more focused Tyron Woodley,” he said. “My motivation is on performance…not fighting for anybody. I plan on making this a complete lifestyle change.”
With this new version of Woodley competing against Gilbert Burns to headline UFC on ESPN 9, he finds himself unconcerned about his opponent or the unusual environment where he will be competing. The event will be held inside the UFC Apex, which utilizes a smaller cage than the standard 30-foot Octagon.
“Small cage won’t be a problem,” Woodley remarked. He went on to discuss how Mike Tyson found success over the years with a limited amount of ring space by using angles effectively. Additionally, the pro since 2009 has competed in multiple different cages over the years. “I’ve been fighting since 2005, they had floor-level cages back in the day…I’ve fought in pretty much everything.”
The size of the cage is not the only significant difference in competition for “The Chosen One,” as he will not have to contend with any sort of a crowd. The noise -- or lack thereof -- is also not likely to burden Woodley.
“I do a walkthrough every fight,” he detailed. “Go into the Octagon on fight morning. I imagine the boos…the [chaos]…throwing tomatoes and saying the worst stuff possible. I imagine the worst case scenario. So when I actually walk out, maybe there are tens of thousands of people, but it feels like an empty arena anyway.”
Although no tomatoes will be soaring towards the cage on Saturday, Woodley believes that his return to form against Burns will be just what he needs to continue building his legacy.
“It’s the people that have to bounce back and face adversity are the ones that show the fans what they’re made of,” he concluded.
« Previous Tim Elliott: No Fear of Consequences Next Sherdog Redraft: ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Season 1 »