When Tyron Woodley challenged Robbie Lawler for the UFC’s welterweight championship at UFC 201, many had considered Lawler as unstoppable. Lawler had recently managed impressive victories over Carlos Condit and now-Bellator competitor Rory MacDonald. However, in a shocking upset, Woodley knocked out Lawler within just minutes of the first round and became the UFC’s new welterweight champion. Woodley has defended his title three times since defeating Lawler in July 2016 and has now turned his eyes towards a “money fight” – but does he deserve one?
Eyes on the money
After his title victory at UFC 201, Woodley has steadily been calling out the top welterweight competitors in the hope that he can score the seemingly elusive “money fight” that every fighter desires. Woodley has previously received criticism from UFC president Dana White for making such call-outs:
Conor (McGregor) brings in the gates, big pay-per-view numbers, and everything else. If you don’t, shut up.
During his reign as champion, Woodley and White have had a rocky relationship, but seem to always smooth things over.
Has Woodley earned a “money fight”?
After winning the title from Lawler, Woodley defended it against Stephen Thompson in a fight that resulted in a majority draw. The UFC, the fans and Woodley and Thompson themselves called for a rematch to determine who should be the UFC’s welterweight champion. Woodley proved to be the better fighter in the rematch and scored a majority decision victory against the number one contender.
Next up was Demian Maia, who had been storming through the division with a winning streak dating back to 2014. After easily submitting Carlos Condit and scoring a split decision victory against Jorge Masvidal, Maia had moved into the position of number one contender for Woodley’s title.
Woodley faced Maia at UFC 214 and it proved to be an extremely lacklustre battle for no other reason than that Woodley simply dominated the Brazilian for five rounds. Woodley successfully defended all of Maia’s 21 takedowns and rendered him useless. Many fans weren’t satisfied with the fight, however, and were calling for Woodley to be more aggressive inside the octagon. The fight between Woodley and Maia broke the record for the least amount of punches thrown in a five-round fight.
While Woodley certainly hasn’t been entertaining, he’s triumphantly defended his title three times against the best welterweights in the UFC. In fact, there’s really no clear challenger to his throne right now either.
Champion vs Champion
Georges St-Pierre is set to make his long-awaited return at UFC 217, where he takes on current middleweight champion Michael Bisping for the title. St-Pierre hasn’t fought since his decision victory over Johny Hendricks in November 2013. With a win over Bisping, many expect St-Pierre to defend the UFC’s middleweight title. However, it’s unclear what will happen if he suffers a loss at the November pay-per-view event.
Woodley spoke with Sports Illustrated, saying:
I wanted to fight one more time, I was being greedy. I wanted to go out here and beat (Demian Maia) and I wanted to fight Georges St-Pierre in November in New York City. This would’ve been the greatest year competitively, and after I beat Georges, there is no question that I’ll be ‘Fighter of the Year.’ I fight five title fights in 18 months and beat the greatest welterweight of all time, nobody has done anything like that in our sport.
McGregor was granted the opportunity to move up weight classes and immediately challenge for the title. It makes sense that Woodley should be able to do the same.
My brother-in-law just asked me [who I’m fighting next] and I said you know what, if he wins I’m going up there to fight him cause you can’t keep running from me.
Woodley also stated that he would move up to the middleweight division to fight Bisping:
I would fight Bisping as well, to be honest. I’m not just saying I want to move up to middleweight because at welterweight I’m a larger size and I feel comfortable at the weight. I have no issues making it, it’s not easy but I always get it done.
But what about Robert Whittaker?
At UFC 213, Robert Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero, one of the most intimidating athletes on the UFC’s roster, and was crowned interim champion of the UFC’s middleweight division. In dominant fashion, Whittaker left the octagon with a unanimous decision victory, the interim title, and the next shot at middleweight champion Bisping, after St-Pierre of course.
When Woodley was asked about Whittaker and his current position as the number one contender in the division, he quickly brushed it off.
There is no such thing as a stipulation, you’re a sub-contract worker. You’re not obligated or required to do anything. What about when Johny Hendricks was the clear-cut winner and it was time for him to fight for the title and he got passed over by Nick Diaz who lost to Carlos Condit? It’s a game of what fight makes money, that’s all it is.
There is no #1 contender, I’ve fought them all, right? At the end of the day, you don’t get rewarded for beating someone whose claim is the No. 1 contender, the No. 1 guy outside the champion. There is no reward for that.
But guys can go out and fight guys that aren’t even in their weight class, aren’t even ranked in the top 10. Bisping’s last fight was against Dan Henderson, was Dan Henderson even in the top 15 at the time? Conor fought Nate Diaz at 170 and neither one of those guys are true 170-pounders. It’s not a matter of No. 1 contender-ship anymore. It’s a matter of money and business.
While Woodley might be in a position to go after the “money fight” with St-Pierre, it now looks as though the winner of Bisping vs St-Pierre at UFC 217 will battle interim champion Whittaker. Woodley might need to wait for his “money fight” a little longer.
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