Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Tyron Woodley has laid out challenges to numerous world champions, including Georges St-Pierre, Nick Diaz, and Conor McGregor.
The latest star on his hit list is UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Following Nurmagomedov’s recent dominant title defense at UFC 242 against Dustin Poirier, a fighter that Woodley knows well from his time training at American Top Team, Woodley called out Nurmagomedov on his Hollywood Beatdown show. The former welterweight champion took part in a fan Q&A at Rogers Arena on Friday and he elaborated on his reason for challenging “The Eagle.”
“He’s a beast,” Woodley said. “I just think that right now in my life and my career, I need the impossible. I need the stuff that nobody can do, I need the thing that’s gonna motivate me beyond measure and I think that he provides that.
“Obviously, I could never make 155. I’m already kind of alluding to handling business at welterweight and going up to middleweight. It would have to be something at a catchweight, it would have to be something that he would be interested in. He’s on top of the world right now, I might not even be an option for him. It’s more out of respect of what he can do. I know Dustin, he spars middleweights, light heavyweights, and for him to go out there and put on a performance like that against Dustin, I gotta see what it feels like.”
Woodley isn’t far removed from his own recent run as a UFC champion, logging four successful title defenses before being dethroned by Kamaru Usman in March. During his reign, Woodley made overtures to being considered the greatest welterweight fighter of all-time and he desired to prove that by someday fighting the legendary St-Pierre.
Though “GSP” did come out of retirement, it was to fight Michael Bisping for a middleweight title, not Woodley. Today, most of the chatter around St-Pierre returning again is focused solely on a dream matchup with Nurmagomedov.
Woodley is planning to train with St-Pierre soon and one thing he has in common with his fellow welterweight great is his desire to cement his legacy, even if he never gets the chance to test himself against St-Pierre inside the Octagon.
“[St-Pierre] trained with the best wrestlers he could train, he trained with Greg Jackson, then he trained with Freddie Roach,” Woodley said. “He took his time and his money and invested into himself, so I took that rubric and I did the same thing to me. I think naturally I’m faster, I think I punch harder, I think I kick harder, I think I wrestle better, I think we both mentally tough and I think if you match us at our prime, I think I win that fight.
“And I’ve always wanted to prove that. Not to you guys, but to myself because he was the king of the throne for a very long time. You can’t ever walk around and say you the greatest that ever did it knowing that this guy’s living, willing, able and competitive enough to still compete. So that’s why I was pushing for that fight. Not so much for the money, I’m going to make money anyway. But so much more for myself, that I can prove that I am the greatest welterweight that’s ever walked around. Once I recognized that we were never gonna fight, then I said why not us train? I’m going to get the same motivation, but now instead of 25 minutes, I can share weeks, hours, months, on picking his brain, swapping techniques, and now my legacy is based on who I beat, how I beat them, how long I reigned at the top, and that’s going to be my argument why I’m the greatest of all-time.”