Former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley hasn't set foot in the Octagon in more than a year. That has only served to dial in his focus and put him in an ornery mood that he promises will leave people wondering why the UFC put Gilbert Burns in the cage with him.
Woodley and Burns are set to headline the UFC Fight Night event on May 30, which is likely to take place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, should the Nevada State Athletic Commission approve restarting combat sports in its state next week.
That will be just over a year since Woodley lost the welterweight title to Kamaru Usman in the UFC 235 main event on March 2, 2019. He had been slated to fight fellow former champ Robbie Lawler in June of last year, but Woodley had to pull out of the fight because of a hand injury.
Woodley was then scheduled to headline UFC London opposite Leon Edwards in March of this year, but the coronavirus pandemic gathered steam and the world essentially went into a shutdown. The event was canceled.
Returning from such a lengthy layoff has Woodley in a rather feisty mood, as he stated during his "Hollywood Beatdown" show on TMZ Sports, "I’m in a violent headspace."
"I don’t know another word to put it," he continued. "I’m willing to do some very sh---y stuff to people, put them in compromising positions, hurt them. Literally, hurt them, not just go out there and try to get the win.
"I don’t know if I’ve ever been this focused during my stint in the UFC. I don’t know if I’ve been this ornery. Today, I was yelling and cursing at my sparring partners. That’s how I know I’m peaking at the right time. That’s how I know I’m ready to go."
Currently riding a five-fight winning streak, Burns is certainly not a fighter to be overlooked. Coming off of wins over Gunner Nelson and Demian Maia, Burns is primed to step up to the championship level. Woodley is the closest he's ever been to the belt and a victory over the former titleholder would certainly prime him for a shot at the title.
That said, Woodley has a wealth of experience, not just at a high level, but also in five-round fights, most of those being championship bouts. He's not new to the pressures of high-profile fights or to the stamina it takes to go five rounds. He's been five rounds with the likes of Maia, Lawler, and Stephen Thompson.
"What I like about this match-up for me is that it’s a five-round fight. I don’t know if he’s ever fought a five-round fight, but it’s different. It’s different than trying to come out and explode," said Woodley.
"He goes out there and he either explodes in the first two rounds and then starts to fade in the third or he explodes in first round, the second round is kinda crazy, and then he just lets it all hang out in the third round.
"When you’re down 3-0 and I’m up three rounds and then you come out and get picked apart in the fourth, then you’re left to desperation. You’re left to swing big and kick big and go for takedowns and I think if anybody in the UFC is gonna have an eyeball to see that s--t from a mile away, get out the way, and sting you with some shots, it’s me.”
Woodley has been out of the cage for so long, he realizes that fans might not remember what a dominant champion he was or the type of pace he could maintain.
He's ready to remind them.
"When we get in there in the octagon, the performance I put on is going to be crazy. I’m gonna be talking s--t to him, I’m gonna be pushing him in the face, I’m gonna be punching him, I’m going to deny every takedown, every scramble, and I’m gonna leave him out there and it’s gonna be like, ‘F---, why did the UFC match him up with this dude? That’s a mismatch. That isn't even fair.’ People are gonna feel bad for him," Woodley promised.
"People only remember you for your last outing and it’s been so long ago, it’s time to remind them."
Tyron Woodley: 'I'm in a violent headspace'
(Video courtesy of TMZSports)