Sorry, Kamaru Usman. Despite the tenacity it takes to prepare for a fight without a guarantee of participating, Tyron Woodley won’t be going through with it.
Woodley returned to the welterweight division to reclaim his spot as champion after recovering from shoulder surgery. Woodley has been a constant in the division, using his combination of power and patience to shut down two of the most dynamic fighters in the UFC.
Neither striking expert Stephen Thompson or world-renowned grappling champion Demian Maia could offer anything Woodley couldn’t handle. Now, his next challenge is undefeated Darren Till – though there may be a problem.
Till has been vocal about his size in the 170-pound division. He’s proclaimed he is a light heavyweight fighting at welterweight, and his last fight showed it. He missed weight by over three pounds, yet earned a title shot afterwards. The lesson that such a pairing sends is questionable, especially in an age where weight misses seem to happen more and more often.
Knowing that Woodley may be without an opponent for the upcoming title bout, another welterweight who has been on the rise stepped in with a brave offer. Usman agreed to train for the bout and prepare just in case Till pulls out – salvaging the title affair and positioning himself as a card-saving hero.
There’s just one problem – Woodley says he won’t fight Usman at UFC 228.
Woodley said it was Till or no one, and that he would fight Usman but only on a full training camp. He said: “I’ll fight anybody on a full training camp. I’ll fight you on a full training camp, but I’m not a guy, this is not a circus to me. You’re not going to have me prepare to fight a 6-foot-3 striker southpaw, and then on 24 hours’ notice because this motherf*cker missed weight and he’s unprofessional, now I gotta fight a 5-foot-10 switch-stance wrestler.”
Woodley may be making a statement here, as he could feel disrespected by the UFC. He had four performances, all for the title, in the span of a single year. Yet despite going 4-0 in those affairs, he saw an interim title created when he was out for mere months with a shoulder injury. And while some may say Woodley’s recent title defenses weren’t exciting, there’s no denying he’s a fighter who is tough to beat.
And while he may not be looking for a substitute in the event Till misses weight and loses the title opportunity, Woodley did say he’d still accept the bout. It’s a risky move for both Woodley and the promotion. On one hand, Woodley still gives the fans a fight even if his opponent doesn’t make weight and solidify the title contention. But what happens if Till beats Woodley? The UFC would have a champ who just lost a fight to the top contender.
As for Usman, he may end up getting his shot eventually if he continues his winning streak – but as of now, he’s out of luck.