Professional sports — and in particular solo sports like prizefighting — can bring the highest of highs, but the lowest of lows sometimes aren’t too far behind.
One man who has experienced both of these emotions is former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, who will put into action plans to take a sizeable step back to championship contention when he faces Gilbert Burns in the main event of the UFC’s return to Las Vegas this weekend.
After a run of seven undefeated fights, in which he beat the likes of Darren Till, Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia, Woodley was usurped on the welterweight throne by Kamaru Usman — a fight which still hangs over Woodley ahead of his return to the cage on Saturday.
“I went into a state of depression for a while,” Woodley said to reporters Thursday. “I really wasn’t talking to many people, I was eating terrible, I wasn’t training, and I just really didn’t expect – I felt like all my competition before Kamaru Usman was my stiffest competition. I felt like all the great welterweights I beat before then would be my toughest competition.
“I didn’t take anyone lightly. I didn’t think it was going to be cruise control at that point, but I felt like I had those five rounds mapped out so well. I felt like my strategy, my gameplan, my studying, my coaches, my team, I felt like I had everything in position to win. So I really had to deal with that, and it took longer than any other fight in my career.
“I got to the point where I felt like I faced it head on. I felt like I’m a better person, I’m a better fighter, a better human being because of it. I felt like it was necessary for my journey. Sometimes you see guys, and they just go from the bottom to the top and they spring all the way though.
“They got everybody helping them out, whether it’s media push or social media, and they just got all the things given. It’s the people who have to bounce back, who have to face adversity and have to show the fans what they’re made of – that they’re just not going to crawl into a ball.”
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Woodley has, of course, tasted defeat before with Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields besting him inside a UFC cage but he says that, while defeat stings, it adds a further dose of motivation to the mix.
“I’m coming out swinging, and I’ve always come out swinging after defeat, but this time its a little different because I plan on making this a complete lifestyle change. The way that I’m taking the fight game and really my focus is really set back to the amateur Tyron Woodley, who was trying to turn professional, who was trying to fight in the UFC, who wanted to be a champion, who wanted tor reign. I’m out for everything right now.”
For Woodley, that begins on Saturday night against surging contender Gilbert Burns.
“I think just winning in dominant fashion is going to set up a lot of things for me,” Woodley said. “It could be fighting Usman or it could be anything, but I think going out on Saturday and focusing on that first and not looking so far down the road is going to help me in this situation.”
This weekend’s card from the UFC Apex is headlined by the welterweight clash between Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. You can see the latest odds for all of the fights on the card via the our official betting partner Parimatch.