Tyron Woodley knows his best days in MMA are probably behind him.
At age 40, the former UFC welterweight champion has stayed active in combat sports since his title reign ended in 2019, but his results have been rocky, to say the least. Between MMA and professional boxing, Woodley is a combined 0-6 since dropping the UFC title, with a pair of boxing losses to Jake Paul representing his most recent in-ring appearances.
So, why does he continue to fight? In a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Woodley admitted it’s a question he’s reflected on since his second loss to Paul.
“I feel like I asked God, I said, ‘Show me this perfect fight.’ And he showed me this perfect fight and me walking away from the sport, and he showed me walking away on top, he show me walking away literally a bulletproof, perfect, no-mistake performance — and that’s the way I envisioned it,” Woodley said on The MMA Hour. No matter what lessons or bumps I had along the way, I knew I did not feel this fight so it isn’t time to give up.
“Then I was talking to my kids last week, and then something just came over me and it was like — you know when you’ve just got something that you feel, like was whispering to you? It was Darren Till. I had that fight. It was a perfect fight. He was stronger than me and more motivated than I was. He sold out the O2 Arena. Conor McGregor was to succeed him. Because I thought too much about entertainment, all the *’s that I did, made me too Hollywood-minded. I felt too stretched thin. And I had three weeks to get ready to take on this kid.”
Woodley’s win over Till ultimately served as the pinnacle of his UFC career. Despite his ranking as one of the best fighters in the world in 2018, the former champ strode into his fourth consecutive title defense against the popular Liverpudlian as a sizable betting underdog. Till was young, hungry, and undefeated, and much of the conversation around UFC 228 framed Till’s time at the top of the welterweight division as a near inevitability.
That talk fueled Woodley — and ultimately led to one of the most impressive nights of his UFC career. Woodley defeated Till by a D’Arce choke in the second round to complete a perfect performance that shook any doubts about Till’s place at the top.
” I was watching some video and Din Thomas had it up [on social media] with me training in the back [during a UFC event],, but he didn’t say who his opponent was,” Woodley stated. They sat my next to [Kamaru] Usman. Colby [Covington], sat next to me. [Jorge] Masvidal sat next to me. Till was seated next to them. Demetrius Johnson was fighting Henry Cejudo the second time [at UFC 227],. I called [former UFC employee] Chris Provino, and I told him to come get me. I want to get the f*** out of here. I do not want to be here. To me, this is not cute. Like, I will really f*** somebody up right now. I don’t like that.’
” They thought it was cute to have everyone around me, so that maybe organic drama might pop off. But some people are built this way. Then I went to Reebok and asked them for a f ****** fighter kit. They gave it to me along with my coach. Now we were at the fight watching, right?
” Thus, [went to the] are back [to start] instruction,” Woodley said. “And we’re training, we’re watching the video of Henry fighting. Coach asked me to tell him that I thought Darren Till could beat me. He is. And he believes he can beat me. That’s dangerous. He will defeat me if I do not train hard enough. It’s not just my belt — it’s our belt. “He’s going take our belt from me.” So, I told him to not relax on me. Don’t f****** take it easy on me.’ I said, ‘I want you to push me, push me, push me.’ And I said that in the press conference. So I look on the screen and Demetrius Johnson loses to Henry Cejudo, and I said, ‘If this motherf***** can lose, the best well-rounded fighter we’ve ever seen, anybody can lose.’ And I said, ‘I’m going apes***.’
“I trained 24 days straight, no breaks, twice a day. I just went nuts. Then I lost weight. It was exactly the fight I had hoped for. When you fight out of pride or fighting for your ego, you can’t help but feel like you’re trying to prove everyone wrong. I went through a time in my life where ***, I took maximum out of every ATM, spent money on cars and other things, as well as spending money. It was during this period that I didn’t feel as responsible when I touched bread the first time. So now I put me in a position where, either it’s because of ego or the way I set myself up, that I had to take a couple more fights. I wasn’t really there.”
Today, the Till performance remains Woodley’s last win of his combat sports career. He ended his UFC career with four straight losses then shifted his attention to his two-fight series with Paul, the second of which ended in a brutal sixth-round knockout loss.
Woodley isn’t done, though. He plans to compete in at least three different combat sports in 2023, he said, and still hopes to find the perfect ending that has eluded him thus far.
“Although it is like that, fights have to be meaningful to me,” Woodley stated. It can’t just be money. I don’t think anyone can beat me. It’s got to be exciting.
“So what I’m going do, I’m going to do a boxing fight, and then I think I’m going to fight in a kickboxing fight. Every time I kick somebody, they hit the ground. Why can’t you kick more people? … That’ll gradually bring me up. The plan is to box, keep in good shape and add more kicks. I have also been training in Muay Thai and kickboxing, so it’s almost like I am back kicking. And as I prepare for the Muay Thai fight, I’m going to incorporate the rest of the grappling back in.
“Then I want to wrap up the year with MMA. It is my dream to fight in St. Louis. Since my first Strikeforce fight, I haven’t fought in St. Louis. I started my first Strikeforce fight in 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri, and then I’m thinking I want to [return] there at the end of the year.”