If you don’t know the name Tyron Woodley, be sure to write it down and commit it to memory. You’re going to be hearing a lot from him in the coming years.
The former All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri has emerged as one of the brightest prospects in the sport, and has the potential to be one of Strikeforce’s first home-grown superstars.
A native of St. Louis, the 28-year-old wrestler was disappointed to be left off last weekend’s Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery card in his hometown. With designs on exceeding everyone’s expectations and an eye on ensuring he’s part of the company’s next show in St. Louis, Woodley will take to the cage tonight looking to continue his unbeaten run at Strikeforce Challengers 8.
“I had to really check my pride on this situation,” admitted Woodley about not being able to compete on last weekend’s card. “To me, you have to realize that it’s a pro fight – it’s not taking an amateur fight or a semi-pro fight.
“I could be fighting in a backyard or a White Castle box, it really doesn’t matter what platform I’m on, what’s the name of the show, or what platform I’m on, whether it’s Strikeforce, Challengers, CBS or whatever, I’m still in a professional fight and I still have to prepare and be at my best no matter where I fight.”
Where Woodley will fight next is the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. Though his opponent may not be the marquee name many had hoped to see the former Missouri Tiger tangle with, Woodley isn’t taking Nathan Coy lightly.
“I’ve been blessed because I actually trained with Nathan Coy,” Woodley offers, adding that his current opponent was the first name that popped into his head when told that the fight would be taking place in Portland. Eight of Coy’s ten professional fights have come in the Pacific Northwest, and the Team Quest member holds wins over UFC fighters Rick Story and Mike Pierce.
“It’s not like [he’s] a guy I don’t know anything about; I know he’s tough, I know he’s hard-nosed. I know what kind of guy I’m up against. I’m not taking this situation lightly, but I also know my abilities. I’m confident that my preparation and my mentality going into this fight, I’m going to be the victor.”
A fight like this is a dangerous proposition for an emerging talent like Woodley.
While Coy is a much more talented fighter than many fans will admit, he offers little in the way of name recognition to help propel Woodley up the welterweight rankings. However, should the Team Quest veteran pull off the upset, the projected ascent of Tyron Woodley to the top of the 170-pound division will veer off course, which is exactly why Woodley hopes this is the last time he has to face this dilemma.
“For me and my career,” Woodley begins, “hopefully this is one of the last situations like that where I’m fighting a guy that I know is tough, but does nothing for my career. It’s not like I’m beating Jay Hieron or (Marius) Zaromskis or Joe Riggs.” With another convincing win, Woodley could certainly be looking at meeting one of those three welterweights in the future, and that is exactly the kind of fight he is looking for next.
“I’m trying to really focus and tunnel-vision in on [Nathan Coy], but one thing I can say is that if it’s not an opponent that’s leading me to title contention or an opponent that leads me to the guy who is reigning over the 170-pound division right now, I’m not interested in fighting him.
“I’m not interested in being asked questions about him. I’m not entertaining the idea. If this person does not put me a step closer to the belt, I do not want to fight him. I don’t want to thumb wrestle with him. I don’t want to do nothing with him.”
There has been a lot of discussion lately about the re-emergence of wrestling as a dynamic foundation for mixed martial arts success. As captain of the same Missouri wrestling team that produced Bellator tournament finalist Ben Askren, Woodley points to the training and work ethic of wrestler as one of the main reasons for their recent run of success.
“With the constant contact, the constant bursts of anaerobic activity and having to drill techniques over and over and over again, when it comes to picking up boxing or jiu jitsu, it’s sometimes easier for us because we’re already used to having to drill, and get tired, and drill some more.”
Whatever the reason, wrestlers have once again achieved a dominant position across the sport. Like contemporaries Muhammed Lawal and Brock Lesnar, Woodley’s dynamic skills set could help him add his name to the list of wrestlers wearing championship gold. The journey has started, with the next step coming tonight in Portland.
Tyron Woodley is a superstar and potential champion in the making. Don’t say we didn’t tell you.