LOS ANGELES – Tyron Woodley knows how the game is often played in the UFC.
The squeaky wheel more often than not gets greased. A fighter who isn't afraid to publicly campaign for his case, who is willing to use social media, who all but dares his bosses to give him the big fight he seeks, is likely to be rewarded.
Such is the case for the former University of Missouri wrestler, who finds himself less than two weeks away from his biggest career fight. Woodley meets popular former champion Carlos Condit in the welterweight co-feature bout of UFC 171 on March 15 in Dallas.
Woodley, who saw himself behind a crowded pack at 170 pounds, made a loud case for a match with Condit, and got what he asked for.
"I want to fight Condit," said Woodley, who was in Los Angeles to speak at a local Boys and Girls Club as part of the UFC's Black History Month Tour. "I don't care what people say, I don't care whose turn it is, I'm ready to fight these guys, you won't have a better champion than me."
Of course, it's not like Woodley is the latest version of Pat Cummins, who went from barista to a one-sided UFC co-main event loss to Daniel Cormier in the span of two weeks last month. Woodley has eight finishes among his 12 victories in 14 pro fights, the most memorable of which was his most recent, a vicious knockout of veteran Josh Koscheck at UFC 167.
It was after the Koscheck fight that Woodley sat down and hatched his plan to get a big fight.
"I'm trying to be [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva," Woodley said. "I'm looking at everybody, who's matched up, where they're fighting. He likes to match guys who just won, guys who just lost, so I'm looking at it like, these are my options, these are who they can put me against."
Woodley waited until an opportune moment. Former champion Georges St-Pierre's retirement announcement set off a chain reaction at welterweight, leading to the Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler bout for the vacant title, which headlines UFC 171.
That's when Woodley launched a double-barreled assault, bombarding UFC president Dana White directly via text and taking his case to the fans via Twitter.
"GSP retired, and two weeks later I just went crazy, all out," Woodley said. "I sent him, it was actually one long text on iphone, but my phone broke it up into 15 texts, I told him, if you give me that fight with Carlos Condit, I will step up and fight him, I'll have the bout agreement back to him in 20 minutes, and he just sent me a smiley face. That's when I knew I had it."
Woodley knows, of course, that if he's going to jump the line and take on a fighter the caliber of Condit, the former UFC interim and WEC champion, he's going to have to walk the walk. Twice in his career, Woodley has seemed on the precipice of greater things, but come up short: First in 2012, when he took a 10-0 record into a Strikeforce welterweight title fight against Nate Marquardt, but lost via fourth-round KO; and in a dull split decision loss to Jake Shields at UFC 161.
"I wasn't ready for it," Woodley said. "The responsibilities, being champion and all that. I thought I was ready, but I think now I am honestly ready for that position, to be the champion, one of the best in the world. ... I'm young in the sport but I'm old enough to understand. I'm 31, I'm not 24 or 25. I feel like I'm moving into my peak."
Woodley isn't happy with simply getting his big chance. The American Top Team fighter feels that he and Condit have the ability to steal the show. Condit (29-7) is one of the sport's most popular fighters because of his fearlessness and his ability to mix-and-match based on whatever the fight dictates. He's taken home six post-fight bonuses in his past seven fights, with four fights of the night and two knockouts of the night.
"I think this is a No. 1 contender's fight, and in a perfect world whoever wins is No. 1 contender," said Woodley, who picked up a KO of the Night bonus for his finish of Koscheck. "If Carlos Condit wins this fight, he fights the world title. The way this fight goes, the style matchup and the way it should go down, this is fight of the night, fight of the year material. We're going to be all over each other, just the way the fight is going to pan out."
That's a pretty high bar to set. Regardless of what goes down at the American Airlines Arena though, Woodley says that the means he used to get his fight with Condit isn't something that is going to turn into a schtick.
"I did what I had to, to get my spot," Woodley said. "I wouldn't have called out someone as good as Carlos if I didn't think I could defeat him. So many guys think they have to put on a show. There's only one Chael [Sonnen]. He's the best at that. For me, people can honestly say this is my time, he's real, he fights hard, he's a good ambassador for the sport. My goal is, I want to be the best."
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter @DaveDoylemma.
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