Tyron Woodley is not short of confidence. He might be coming off a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Rory McDonald, but the 32-year-old still believe he is the best and he won’t have to wait long for another opportunity to prove it.
Woodley recently got the call to replace the injured Hector Lombard and face Dong Hyun Kim at UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Le on Aug. 23. He said he had no hesitation about accepting the unexpected assignment.
“I had no issue with taking the fight because I came out of my last fight with nothing except for a couple tiny nicks here and there,” he said.
When the fight, which takes place at the Cotai Arena in Macau, was announced by Dana White at a Hong Kong press conference this week, Woodley was already in the region on a training trip to Evolve MMA in Singapore.
However, he says he booked the trip to Singapore well before the call came to replace Lombard.
“It was coincidence. I came out here to train at Evolve MMA because Heath Sims is a friend of mine and he invited me over here to Singapore.”
It is a happy coincidence because Woodley now has a base in the region and he says he will be dividing his time between Singapore and the U.S. as he prepares to face the tough Korean.
“I'll be doing half of my camp here for my fight against Kim because this place is legit. There are world champions in every aspect of MMA and I am getting some amazing knowledge and training here. The fighters on the Evolve Fight Team are world-class with huge potential.”
One of Evolve MMA’s fighters is already very well known to Woodley because he captained the wrestling team at the University of Missouri for three years and during that period Ben Askren burst onto the scene, finishing NCAA Division One runner up two years running.
Askren would go on to win the NCAA Division One Championship on two consecutive occasions after Woodley graduated. The Strikeforce veteran admits to being grateful that his former teammate didn’t end up becoming a potential UFC opponent.
“Me and Ben are close, so I wouldn’t have wanted to fight him. He's definitely one of the best in the world and there is no question that he would take out most of the top 10 in the UFC.”
The two former teammates will be reunited in August when Woodley returns to Evolve MMA for the final part of his training camp after a few weeks back at his normal base of American Top Team.
“I'll be back in August and Ben Askren will be here in Singapore at that time too, he's going to be a great training partner.”
Kim has been a fixture in the UFC for six years, fighting 13 times, but he has never faced a wrestler of Woodley’s calibre. The Korean is coming off of a win against John Hathaway, who hadn’t fought for 18 months prior to that bout, but “The Chosen One” has nothing but respect for an opponent who is a stalwart of the 170-pound division.
“He is a tough opponent with good wins, but I'm always ready for anything.”
In the fight with McDonald, he was unable to score with his trademark takedowns and came off second best in the stand-up exchanges. There are a lot of well known Thai trainers at Evolve MMA and Woodley says he has been picking up some striking tips.
“The knowledge and experience here is unreal. I'm learning so much new stuff here and I have never met so many damn world champions in my life. It's world-class.”
The loss to McDonald put paid to Woodley’s hopes of an immediate title shot, but it did not damage his belief that he will one day wear a title belt.
“The defeat was a learning lesson. (But) there is no question I have what it takes to be UFC champion. It is about me not defeating myself.”
A win over Kim would catapult him immediately back into title contention and if Woodley can perform to his full potential, which he clearly feels wasn’t the case against McDonald, he will be confident of overcoming the Korean and getting back on title track.