Coach: Saturday was do or die for Woodley, might as well have retired with loss
Tyron Woodley knocked out Josh Koscheck in the KO of the Night. Then Carlos Condit dramatically retired with a knee injury. Then Woodley lost a decision to Rory MacDonald, only to bounce back with a Performance Bonus winning TKO of Dong Hyun Kim in 61 seconds. Then he won a Split Decision vs. Kelvin Gastelum, and topped that by knocking out Robbie Lawler earning a performance bonus and the UFC welterweight championship. Woodley retained his title with Majority Draw vs. Stephen Thompson, in an exciting Fight of the Night.
Next Woodley had fights vs. Thompson, again, and Demian Maia that weren’t overtly exciting much of the time. And he bounced back from that with a crushing of the favorite Darren Till on Saturday night
Somehow in the unfortunate minds of some, Woodley’s career arc is defined by Thompson II and Maia I. That’s not rational. Texas fans on Saturday were cheering more loudly for the Englishman than they were for the man from Missouri. That’s not rational.
Woodley’s coach Din Thomas appeared recently on Luke Thomas’s The MMA Hour, and tried to make sense of the senseless.
“I think that people are starting to realize,” said the coach, as transcribed by Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “Here’s what I think, I’m going to be honest with you, I think that people were just upset with Tyron. I don’t think that they ever didn’t think he could fight. I think they were just upset with him because they know what he’s capable of. I mean, up until the second Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson fight — Tyron was just tearing people up until that fight. Then those two fights, I think he just disappointed people and they were upset with him, and that’s when they started really badmouthing him. And the fact that he was coming out and just kinda complaining about his position in the game, I think that really just kinda exacerbated everybody’s view of him, and just, ‘You know what, we don’t like this guy.’
“But I think his performance on Saturday and his stance now that, ‘Listen, I don’t care who you put in front of me, I’m just going to fight,’ I think that’s what people want from Tyron and I think that’s what turned everybody’s opinion of him around.”
“It’s always affected him. There’s times where we had to take his phone away from him. It affects these guys. These fighters, everybody thinks they’re just these warriors and these animals, but fighters are some of the most sensitive people that you’ll ever see or ever meet, and it affects them. They get out there and they train their tails off and then get in the cage and they fight, they make themselves so vulnerable for the world to see, and then people just take that for granted and start talking trash about them, and it affects them. It affects them heavily.
“But I think now is a time where Tyron has matured, he has evolved as a person and a martial artist. He’s starting to become more mature and say, ‘You know what, this may be a time where I have to just give to the fans what they want, and that’s for me to just shut up and fight.’”
“He was bothered by [the odds being against him], but it wasn’t that he was underdog. That was never the case, because he’s been the underdog in the last four of his five fights, so that wasn’t the case. The case was really that he knew that — he felt kinda pressured into taking this fight. He knew that it wasn’t really the right time for him and it might not even have been the right fight for him, but he felt like he was kind of pressured into this fight, so he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to keep my mouth shut and I’m going to show the world what I’m made of.’ And that’s exactly what he did. That was exactly what he prepared for.
“He also, too, and this is one thing that I think helped this fight too, was that he understood what Darren Till was capable of and respected it throughout camp. Some of the other guys, with like Demian Maia or even ‘Wonderboy,’ it was like we knew that we had that puzzle to solve, but he never really felt like those guys could hurt him and put him away and embarrass him. But he knew that Darren Till, if Darren Till was able to get off, he knew that Darren Till could embarrass him. So he said, ‘You know what, I’m not going to let this happen. I can’t afford to lose. The position I’m in now, the position that the world treats me, the way the UFC and everybody treats me, I cannot lose this fight.’
“I was saying that if Tyron loses that fight, he might as well retire. He was in a do-or-die position, because they’re going to push him way to the back. If Tyron loses that fight, they would’ve never given him a rematch. He would’ve had to fight every top guy coming up. His next fight would’ve been Usman and then Leon Edwards and then Santiago Ponzinibbio. He would never have been in a position to get back to that title, so he cannot lose.”