Former Missouri wrestler puts unbeaten streak on line
Tyron Woodley believes everything is coming together at the right time.
The former University of Missouri wrestling standout has worked diligently to trade in his label as an MMA prospect and become recognized as the No. 1 contender for the Strikeforce welterweight crown. The title, left vacant when former champion Nick Diaz made his exodus to the UFC, will draw within reach if Woodley can beat Jordan Mein on Saturday night.
“I think I’m at the top right now,” Woodley said. “There is no question I’m the No. 1 contender for the Strikeforce title. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than most people probably realize. I’ve been training since 2005, and this has been a long time coming for me. I’ve been very patient. Sometimes I’ve been overly patient because I have waited on title fights and opponents.
“Strikeforce made their big announcement, and we had to wait on that. We couldn’t rush, and Strikeforce didn’t want to make this a bout for the welterweight title because they wanted to make sure they were going to still be around. (Strikeforce) put together this January card – and I’ll see that welterweight title in March or April.”
Before Woodley (9-0, 7-0 Strikeforce) can make championship gold a reality, he will have to make his way through Mein (23-7, 1-0 Strikeforce), a Canadian striker. The 21-year-old made an impressive Strikeforce debut by defeating veteran Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in September. While the undefeated Woodley can appreciate the hype surrounding the young prospect, he feels the fight is his for the taking.
“I think I’m a lot stronger than Jordan,” Woodley said. “He’s a good striker, but at the end of the day he’s never been up against a guy like me. I’m faster, punch harder, wrestle and grapple better than he does. I’m going to take him into deep water, and I don’t think he will have any advantages there. I’m the more complete fighter. I’m hungrier, have more power and it’s my time to get that title.
“I’m going to dictate the pace and control every position. I’m going to push forward and anything he does well, expect me to neutralize it. In my mind it’s more about me, less about him – and that is the game plan.”
Woodley is one of Strikeforce’s biggest success stories. He dominated during his time on the promotion’s Challengers series, and after claiming a victory over Paul Daley in Chicago, he took one more step toward his goal of being Strikeforce champion. While the welterweight title is of high priority, it is just another number on a list of ambitions.
“My hopes are to get the belt and to be the No. 1 welterweight in the world,” Woodley said. “I think it’s important for me to win the belt because I set out to be the best in Strikeforce, and that would be a goal achieved. I’m going to be in the UFC at some point in my career. I’ll have my chance to take on (Georges St-Pierre), Diaz, (Carlos) Condit and all the top guys there. I’ll look forward to that when it’s the time to do so, but right now I’m concentrating on the Strikeforce belt.”
In addition to furthering his status as a mixed martial artist, Woodley has also ventured into the business world. Woodley recently opened his own American Top Team branch, ATT Evolution, in Lockhead, Mo., and was excited to keep his training camp close to home.
“I’ve received a lot of support for this fight and a lot of people have come out to help me train,” Woodley said. “I just opened my own gym, and it would be senseless of me to leave when I have a full facility to work with. I have everything I need here to prepare. I have my personal trainer, meal sponsor (Metabolic meals) so I decided to stay put for a change. I also have Din Thomas, Michael Chandler and Jason High helping me prepare.
“American Top Team isn’t something that is common knowledge in Missouri, and it’s important we educate the community as to what the gym offers. The trainers are all accessible and the gym is centrally located in St. Louis. I invite everyone to come in and check it out.”
Woodley and Mein fight on the main card of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine, which takes place Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The main event features the first middleweight title defense of Luke Rockhold against former UFC light heavyweight Keith Jardine, who drops to 185 pounds for the first time. The main card, which airs at 10 p.m. Eastern on Showtime as part of the premium cable channel’s free preview weekend, also features a middleweight fight between former title challenger Robbie Lawler and Adlan Amagov and a light heavyweight contenders fight between former champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Lorenz Larkin.