Tyron Woodley talks Robbie Lawler and American Top Team Ties

By Jim Edwards

Tyron Woodley isn't pulling any punches in the lead up to his title fight at UFC 201. He's not worried about the ties he and Robbie Lawler have to American Top Team, nor the imaginary connection between them on a personal level. Woodley is only focused on doing what has to be done to become the welterweight champion—a goal he's had his sights on since his MMA career began.

"All I'm seeing is the gold around his waist," Woodley said. "I'm not his friend, I'm not going to try and be nice and I'm not going to be scared to f*** him up."

Eyes on the prize

Woodley only has to wait a little more than a month until his UFC 201 title fight with Lawler, but he's been counting down the days for much longer than that. While speaking exclusively to FloCombat this past weekend at the Bellator: Dynamite II event, Woodley explained how he was first spoken to about getting a shot at the gold right at the start of the year.

"We had been talking about it since January, and there were so many different choices with GSP, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz," Woodley said. "Even when I signed a bout agreement, it still didn't feel like things were going to happen but as soon as I got into training camp and started watching film, it just got real man.

"I had that breakthrough training session today. Man, I'm just too fast, too well-rounded to be denied in this fight."

It's been widely speculated that after Woodley's win over Kelvin Gastelum in January 2015, he told the UFC that he wouldn't fight again unless it was a title shot. Until now, Woodley hadn't denied this claim, but with the title fight booked, he was now happy to tell his side of the story.

"I was told that in January [2016] right after the fight [UFC 195 Lawler vs Condit] that Dana pulled Robbie and Dan [Lambert - ATT Owner] to the side and said that he wanted them to fight Carlos in a rematch," Woodley said. "Robbie and Dan then said that they believed I should get the title shot and although they knew they didn't pick the fights, they believed I earned it and I deserved it.   

"Dana White then said, 'You know what? Maybe you do get pick the fights so he would make that fight happen.' I was told that news off the record, and we are talking January here. Months went by, and I hit Dana up and said, 'Hey, do you know when we are going to be fighting? I just want to know so I can be prepared for it.'

"I didn't get a ton of response back from him, but I knew there was some stuff in the water. Long story short, things happen for a reason. It's my time. I wasn't ever like, 'Oh I'm not taking a title shot because you didn't tell me'—I know that's not how things work. It's my season, it's my time."

'It's time to participate'

Despite being thankful for his American Top Team (ATT) compatriots fighting his case for a title shot, Woodley wasn't holding back his feelings whatsoever when it came to talking about the training camp arrangements that had been made to accommodate the two ATT-affiliated fighters ahead of their title fight.

"How long has Robbie been at ATT? Let's try 10 years—no, that's how long I've been with them, and there ain't been anyone there longer than I have. He is their champion there currently, and he will be doing his training camp there. I've been blessed that I've had some great camps like AKA camp, Wildcard Boxing camp, Xtreme Couture camp, Antonio Mckee Body Shop camp. They received me with open arms and more recently, Roufus Sport received me with open arms."

He continued: "All of them were intimate and welcomed me. I've also got my crew in St Louis. These guys are just like-minded and we have one thing in common—we've been delayed but we ain't being denied. We've been put to the side and had so many things put in front of us. We've been spectators to greatness, and now it's time to participate. I'm real excited about it."

'A cerebral fighter'

In his 16 months out of the Octagon, Woodley became a regular analyst on FOX Sports, and has received praise far and wide for his astute observations and ability to break down the action.

"It's not just something I fell into; I've been studying for this for a while now," Woodley said. "I've always wanted to be an analyst, and I've always looked at fights in a more of a strategic way. A lot of guys just look at you fight, and they don't realise that I'm a cerebral fighter. When you look at my fights and look at what my opponents are supposed to do well, they don't do them well against me.

"For instance, Carlos Condit coach said, 'No one wants to strike with Carlos Condit,' I went out there and I begged to differ and I did that all night long. Think about Paul Daley, Tarec Saffiedine, Jordan Mein, these were all guys on vicious tears and I was confident enough to acknowledge what their tools were and be honest with myself and my weaknesses. I think, 'If I was fighting me, how would I fight me?' and I build my game plan off that. I'm really good and making guys look really flat out there. That's what I do in every fight."

Many fighters attest to their mental preparation being as important as their physical preparation before a fight. But confidence isn't going to be an issue for Woodley come July 30. 'The Chosen One' believes he can take home the gold no matter how the fight with Lawler plays out at UFC 201.  

"I'm well-rounded, I can grapple, I can wrestle, I can Jiu Jitsu, I can sprawl, I can brawl, I got one-punch K.O. power, and just having a person who knows it's their time—that's a dangerous dude to be fighting. I got a family; I ain't a young puppy anymore. It's the perfect time for me to go out there, win this belt and reign."

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