Strikeforce’s “Challengers” series is intended to showcase upcoming talent within the company and to show off the growth of the their prospects as they compete to become champions. One such prospect that will be fighting on Friday night’s Strikeforce Challengers 8 card, has been a champion before.
Tyron Woodley was a Big 12 Champion in 2003 while he was wrestling at the University of Missouri. He was also twice named an All-American (2003, 2005) earning high accolades and much attention in the sport. He had high aspirations for his wrestling career, wanting to become the best, but unfortunately he fell short of his goals and was at a crossroads. With a desire to compete still burning inside of him, he decided to focus his future in the same direction that many fellow collegiate wrestlers had gone. Now, his path is focused on becoming a world champion mixed martial artsist and becoming a champion again.
“Basically, you know, I finished college and had aspirations of being a national champion. Those things didn’t come through for me so I still had the competitive desire to compete on a high level and at that time the wrestlers were doing the greatest (in MMA) you know. Rashad Evans won the TUF show…and Gray Maynard and all those guys that I knew from college, they were having some good success. I thought it would be a good outlet for me. Being an explosive wrestler, my wrestling translated really well to MMA so I got into it and now it’s become a career and I got some good goals ahead of me.”
His goals are getting even larger and his desire to be at the top and battle for the title is now his main focus. Currently on the “Challengers” circuit, Woodley feels that if or when he is victorious this Friday night, then it will prove to be time to face a leap up in competition. His sights are set on becoming the champion and he knows that to get there he’ll have to face off against the best fighters in Strikeforce today.
“Yeah, I really have no desire to fight another “Challengers” series. I think I’ve outgrown that situation. I think my feet have become too big for the “Challengers series, you know just kinda saying. I thought this next fight, you know, some of the opponents that I thought I might be able to get, I thought I may be on a main card a little quicker and it just definitely didn’t work out with timing, but I try not to look past this fight. I’ve got a tough opponent in front of me who trains hard and I know his work ethic. I wanna knock him off first, but after that I got high aspirations for this year. I think my style is the worst style for Nick Diaz or Jake Shields or one of those high caliber guys…By the end of the year I would love to go out and display that. That’s where my goals are at and if it’s not an opponent that you know; a logical opponent that a win against that person can put me closer to the belt, then my interest level is really low for fighting those guys. That’s kinda where I’m at.”
Woodley also has goals for life outside the cage. He already graduated with a major in Agricultural Economics and is now in graduate school to prepare himself with the skills necessary to give back to the community and relaize his dream of opening and running a non-profit organization with a focus of helping inner city youths to use sports as a means of expressing themselves.
“I’m full time in graduate school doing public administration with an interest in non-profit so I’m in a role right now educating myself; getting what I think I need; getting the people who have the finances and the interest in doing it in place. These things are not just goals they’re actually in the blueprints now, just as soon as it’s the right time in my career.
“I’m trying to reach a lot of goals first and hopefully that will happen. I always wanna give back to kids, especially inner city kids, so they’ll have the resources if they have the desire to want to use sport as a positive outlet.”
He’s quite the busy guy with school and training and prefers to fight often, usually with just 1 or 2 months in between his fights. This fight however will mark his longest “down time” thus far in his career. Clocking in at roughly 6 months since he submitted Rudy Bears in his last fight, Woodley doesn’t think the time off will hinder him. Instead he believes that it helped to hone his skills and make himself better every day.
“Most of my fights haven’t went the complete 15 minutes so what I was doing was trying to get a lot of fights in a row. Basically get that experience..that’s what I need the most. My skills are gonna develop because when I train, I don’t just train to have a strategy for one opponent, I train to get better as a fighter. If he does something really well, of course i’m gonna respect that and plan according to that but I’m not gonna make a complete game plan just to cater to one style.
“6 months did a lot for my development as a fighter. I would have loved to have fought 1 or 2, maybe 3 times, in between that 6 months. That way I can continue to get experience in the ring; continue to get those butterflies; continue to get nervous and get out there. Every fight, I believe, I get better as a fighter and you know you can drill and practice and train all you want but until you get that live experience of being in that cage and fighting, you know; I don’t feel like you develop as much as you could without that experience.”
His next experience will come against Nathan Coy at Strikeforce Challengers 8 on Friday, May 21st from Portland, Oregon. The fight will be broadcast live on Showtime and will be the greatest test yet in Tyron Woodley’s developing MMA career. Believe me when I say, you don’t want to miss this chance to watch one of the brightest prospects in Strikeforce, and maybe all of MMA, before he becomes a household name.