Tyron Woodley’s outlook toward his professional fighting career has changed.
The former UFC welterweight champion had a tough time after losing his belt to Kamaru Usman back at UFC 235 in March 2019. The struggles of losing his title, which he had defended four times prior, forced Woodley (19-4-1 MMA, 11-4-1 UFC) to reassess and take a new approach to his UFC journey.
And ahead of his first fight back since losing the belt, Woodley expects to see the new approach show in his main event bout against Gilbert Burns at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 9.
“I went into a state of depression for a while,” Woodley told reporters at Thursday’s virtual media day. “I really wasn’t talking to many people, I was eating terrible, I wasn’t training, and I just really didn’t expect – I felt like all my competition before Kamaru Usman was my stiffest competition. I felt like all the great welterweights I beat before then would be my toughest competition. I didn’t take anyone lightly. I didn’t think it was going to be cruise control at that point, but I felt like I had those five rounds mapped out so well. I felt like my strategy, my gameplan, my studying, my coaches, my team, I felt like I had everything in position to win. So I really had to deal with that, and it took longer than any other fight in my career.
“I got to the point where I felt like I faced it head on. I felt like I’m a better person, I’m a better fighter, a better human being because of it. I felt like it was necessary for my journey. Sometimes you see guys, and they just go from the bottom to the top and they spring all the way though. They got everybody helping them out, whether it’s media push or social media, and they just got all the things given. It’s the people who have to bounce back, who have to face adversity and have to show the fans what they’re made of – that they’re just not going to crawl into a ball.
“I’m coming out swinging, and I’ve always come out swinging after defeat, but this time its a little different because I plan on making this a complete lifestyle change. The way that I’m taking the fight game and really my focus is really set back to the amateur Tyron Woodley, who was trying to turn professional, who was trying to fight in the UFC, who wanted to be a champion, who wanted tor reign. I’m out for everything right now.”
As far as the performance against Usman, Woodley has no answers as to why he couldn’t perform. The 38-year-old fighter just felt it was an off night for him.
“I really can’t explain what happened, so I didn’t make any adjustments. so I really can’t make any adjustments,” Woodley said. “I just wasn’t in my body that night. I haven’t really watched the fight or focused too much on it, just focused on moving forward from it and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
Woodley expects a win over Burns to unlock many good options for his career – including a title fight rematch with Kamaru Usman.
“I think just winning in dominant fashion is going to set up a lot of things for me,” Woodley said. “It could be fighting Usman or it could be anything, but I think going out on Saturday and focusing on that first and not looking so far down the road is going to help me in this situation.”
UFC on ESPN 9 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The event airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.