It was a typical Wednesday night for Tyron Woodley. After training, he darted between training a woman working hard to get in shape, two teenagers working on their striking skills, conducting an interview with Cagewriter, and keeping an eye on kids' wrestling practice at ATT: Evolution in suburban St. Louis.
At the same time, it was a far from typical evening. Woodley was waiting to show his new gym to Ricardo Liborio, the head of American Top Team and Woodley's longtime coach. He nervously checked his phone and watched the door.
Juggling several roles at once is something Woodley is used to doing. He's a fighter for Strikeforce who expects to fight on May 19 against Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce welterweight belt. He is the father of three boys. He is the founder and head coach at AT: Evolution.
But on this night? He's a nervous student who can't wait to show off his masterpiece to his teacher.
Woodley has been talking about building a gym that serves entire families for years. He once even dreamed about the gym he would one day own.
"When I walk through this door, and I look down the hallway, I see what I saw in my head seven years ago in a dream. I smell the smells I smelled in the dream. I see the people working the way I saw them in a dream. For me, it's something God promised me and it's coming forth. People thought I was crazy, but those people who didn't think I could do it are now left in the back," Woodley said.
Liborio proudly smiled when he walked through the door. He immediately congratulated Woodley on the gym that housed a play area for toddlers next to a wrestling space for top-notch fighters. ATT: Evolution's vision is to welcome both.
"We have a family fitness center. We specialize in youth classes, and we specialize in fitness, but we have pro classes, too. We want the elite. We got guys who are established. Luigi Fioravanti just relocated here. You're going to see us develop a fight team, and start running the table. I want guys who have the interest and the work ethic to become the champion, and then iron's gonna sharpen iron."
Preparing for Marquardt
And that environment is what Woodley will use to prepare for the as-yet unconfirmed bout with Marquardt. Though the UFC veteran just recently signed with Strikeforce, Woodley has been preparing for Marquardt for years.
"I had him in my mind for a while. Vitor Belfort wanted me to train with him for the Anthony Johnson fight, but I when I found out Marquardt and GSP were there, I decided not to go because, in my mind, these are guys I'm going to compete against. BAMMA showed some interest in having me fight for their title, so it's been a couple times that our names have been in the same sentence."
Marquardt has long been a top gameplanner, which is something Woodley is preparing for.
"I like the guy. I respect him, but he's working with Greg Jackson. Those guys can piece together a great game plan. They can take one or two things that I do and build a game plan."
But Woodley has fought only 10 bouts. He doesn't think he's yet shown his full arsenal.
"Nobody's seen what I'm fully capable of doing. But for him, I have 40-50 fights to look at. He's very crafty at what he does. He's fairly athletic for his size, but I don't think he's athletic as I am or as fast as I am."
Woodley said he's confident in beating Marquardt, but is also planning for a life beyond fighting.
"God told me this is it. This will be my last job. Fighting won't be my last job. I'll do it for another five, six years. I'll do some other things. I have a couple opportunities to do some movies, do some work in entertainment, but when it's all said and done, this is where I want to end up at. I want to bring this gym, bring ATT:Evolution along the ride with my career with MMA, with coaching, with managing. When all is said and done, this gym will have been the link to it all."