Tyron Woodley wants to clear a few things up.
The UFC welterweight contender has not been seen in the Octagon since January 2015, yet he finds himself slated for a championship fight in the coming months.
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Despite what he describes as “very bad misconceptions” among fans, Woodley said he was not holding out for a title shot and would have taken any fight offered to him, but those offers never came.
“For all the fans and everybody that said, ‘Oh you shouldn’t wait, you should stay active,’ overdose on chill pills, take a deep breath, that’s not what happened,” Woodley told Newsday on Thursday. “People think I was purposefully sitting around and waiting and telling my employer, ‘Hey man, if you don’t give me a title shot, I’m not fighting.’ That’s not a very good tactic to deal with the UFC.”
Woodley wasn’t waiting for the shot, but he appears to be getting it.
Multiple reports Wednesday said Woodley (15-3, 5-2 UFC) will face welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC) at UFC 201 this summer in Atlanta. Woodley said Thursday that the fight has been agreed upon by both parties, but a date has not been officially set and a bout agreement has yet to be signed.
When he does step in the cage, the former NCAA All-American wrestler will return after more than 1 1/2 years away from competition because of circumstances he said were out of his control.
“I fought in January and had an injury to my foot, broke my foot and had pins put in there,” Woodley said. “People don’t realize how serious a broken foot surgery is because you use your foot for everything.”
Woodley, who is also a UFC analyst for Fox Sports, rehabbed and was ready to go for a scheduled bout against Johny Hendricks last October, but the fight was canceled when Hendricks was hospitalized while trying to cut weight during fight week.
Since then, Woodley stayed ready, but never got the call.
“I was never offered a fight after that,” Woodley said. “I was never offered Johny Hendricks again. I already got paid as if I won that fight, why wouldn’t I go out there and fight Johny Hendricks? I was already prepared to beat him and I would’ve been double-paid for the same fight.”
When Hendricks was later scheduled to fight Stephen Thompson, a bout Thompson won convincingly, Woodley didn’t think much of it and focused his attention to a potential bout with Lawler, a teammate at American Top Team and longtime friend.
While he felt his time was coming, Woodley knew the fight wasn’t guaranteed.
“It’s a crazy time for MMA. You’ve got UFC 200 coming up, the chance of Georges St. Pierre coming back, you’ve got Nick and Nate Diaz, one coming off suspension, the other off a big win, so there are a lot of options in this division,” Woodley said. “From a promotion stand point, they’re in a great position. For me, it’s not so great, I’ve been waiting on that opportunity to show I’m the best in the world.”
While those options were there for the UFC, Woodley is happy to be next in line as a fresh face in the title picture.
“It’s not a matter of whether I deserve it or what I’m positioned for – it’s what fits,” Woodley said. “I’m up to bat.”