December 18, 2011
Woodley eyes Strikeforce belt
By NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency
Tyron Woodley is a king without a crown.
After winning a unanimous decision over Paul Daley in July, the former NCAA Division I wrestler was poised to challenge Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz. But opportunity knocked for Diaz and he took off with the promise of a shot at UFC titleholder Georges St. Pierre.
Diaz’s departure has left undefeated Woodley as the top 170-pound fighter on the Strikeforce roster, but he has no belt to show for it. With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of the promotion over the last few months, Zuffa brass was to slow to fill the gaps left behind by champions like Diaz, Dan Henderson and Alistair Overeem moving to the UFC.
But now that Strikeforce will be sticking around, things can get moving again and Woodley has his eyes set on the welterweight strap.
“There was such uncertainty; they did not know,” Woodley said over the phone. “There was no point in going and getting a title bout together. I was just a victim of circumstance. I mean, you put a title bout together and then Strikeforce is gone. Then the belt doesn’t weigh as much.
“Between February, March and April they plan on getting together a welterweight title bout. I’m just making my stake and making sure I’m on one side and whoever the other person is, so be it.”
But before Woodley can even think about a title shot, he’s got to get through Canadian prospect Jordan Mein at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine in Las Vegas Jan. 7. Though he’s only 22 years old, Mein has 30 pro MMA bouts under his belt and holds victories over Evangelista (Cyborg) Santos, Marius Zaromskis, Josh Burkman and Joe Riggs. His Strikeforce debut in September saw him put Santos away with a vicious flurry of standing elbows.
Some would call it a risky fight for Woodley, but he knows too much is on the line for him to take the Lethbridge, Alta., native lightly.
“You have to beat a name to become a name and he’s not going to do that on me,” Woodley said. “I know, for him, it will be a great opportunity to intercept my place and my stake to be fighting for the title next. If he loses, he was the younger fighter and I was set to fight for the title. But if he wins, he jumps me in line. So I think with that hunger it makes for an even more interesting fight.
“I just need to rough him up (to win). He’s a young kid and I think he still has two more growth spurts left in him. He’s more experienced in MMA, but I’m just the older, more experienced person in general as far as fighting and wisdom go. He’ll have his opportunity to be a champion and make his run at titles, but at this point, it’s just my time.
“I feel everything happens for a reason. This fight lined up at the perfect time for me. Unfortunately for him, it’s just not his time.”
It goes without saying that Woodley has a lot on his plate right now. Beyond competing and ensuring his shot at the title, he also opened an American Top Team affiliate gym, ATT Evolution in St, Louis on Saturday. But the pressure and responsibilities only further motivate him to achieve his goal of being a world champion.
If he ever decides to make the jump to the UFC, Woodley wants fans to already know his track record.
“Think about it this way: is it going to hurt my cause, marketability, ranking and what I’m worth if I have a belt?” Woodley began “I think it’s smarter to win (the Strikeforce) belt, so that if I do go to the UFC at some point, I go there with more security and I can start knocking off the top guys. I don’t have to ... start all over after all the work I’ve done with Strikeforce. I think it’s just a smart move and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got a lot of fight left in me. I’ll be around for a while.
“Sometimes you rush into situations that are not the best. My goal has never been to make it to the UFC. My goal is to be a world champion in multiple organizations. If I just wanted to get to the UFC, I could leave right now. Then you lose one or two fights and you know what happens. So I want the fans to know me when I go over. I want the organization to want me and do it on great terms. If I leave when my contract with Strikeforce is up, I want to do it on good terms.
“But I just need to focus on what’s in front of me, which is Jordan Mein. After that, I’ll focus on the belt. Then I’ll focus on defending it. Once that’s over, we’ll sit down and we’ll talk. We’ll see if it’s time to take on Georges St. Pierre or one of the other top guys in the UFC.”