Tyron Woodley has spent the past decade becoming one of the top draws in mixed martial arts—first as an up-and-coming rookie in 2005, then as a UFC contender in 2013, and since 2016, as UFC welterweight champion. Early on, T-Wood kept fans on the edge of their seats. His versatility, jaw-dropping athleticism, and knockout power put asses in chairs and opponents to the canvas. At press time, he had an 18-3 record, with 11 finishes (submission, knockout, technical knockout), but he began losing favor with fans after claiming UFC gold last year.
MMA fans don’t pony up to watch boring fighters, and the UFC doesn’t put together fight cards that generate lackluster ticket sales or pay-per-view buy rates. This, unfortunately, connects to Woodley because the past three title defenses have been certified duds. At his last fight, at UFC 214 last July, he and Demian Maia set a record for least amount of strikes thrown in a championship bout with a measly 86. Post-fight, outspoken UFC president Dana White opined: “Who would pay to see Tyron Woodley fight?”
At UFC 228 on Sept. 8, Woodley is set to fight undefeated Darren “the Gorilla” Till (17-0)—a brawler 11 years his junior and arguably the most hyped this side of Conor McGregor. It’ll be T-Wood’s first bout since having a partially torn labrum on his right shoulder repaired 14 months ago. Whether ring rust will be an issue has yet to be seen, but even more important is whether a young, hungry contender will spoil his comeback.
“Shit, I’m that older fighter now,” Woodley says. “I have to channel that young punk and remember what he was willing to do and sacrifice to get to where I am now.”
In truth, a Till win does more than unseat the champ; it catapults him into a new tier of fighter, with the opportunity to snatch much bigger purses. On the other hand, a Woodley win secures the title but doesn’t strengthen his case “to solidify myself as the greatest welterweight of all time.” What will do that now is a string of high-profile victories. However, what could have accomplished that already was a win over MMA legend Georges St-Pierre.
When GSP came out of retirement in 2017 to fight for (and win) the middleweight belt, rumors of a GSP-Woodley matchup circulated. Ultimately, the fight would never happen, since “Rush” was forced to vacate his title to deal with medical complications due to ulcerative colitis, and there’s no guarantee he’ll make another return.
So after Woodley’s last snooze of a fight, he had the surgery and spent the better part of 2018 recovering, which included a rigorous physical therapy regimen, stem cell injections, and even platelet-rich plasma (PRP) shots—the latter two being methods to speed up the rebuilding process of skeletal muscle to accelerate healing. During this time he stayed visible to fans, appearing on Fox as an analyst for UFC Tonight. He also took on an acting gig in Escape Plan 2 and even tried stand-up comedy.
Whether those things became a distraction and whether his right hand still packs the same punch are up for debate, but Woodley remains upbeat. “I have to be confident,” he says. “My right hand is my moneymaker.”
Though it seems as if the champion is backed up against the wall and fighting to stay relevant in a young man’s game, it’d be unwise to count Woodley out. Along with being a world-class wrestler with a whip-fast right hand and a savvy fight IQ, he’s also in familiar territory, because he’s been fighting his entire life.
Woodley wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth or golden gloves on his hands. He and his 12 siblings were raised by a single mom in a high-crime, drug-riddled neighborhood in Ferguson, MO. Despite those pitfalls, Woodley never allowed his environment to dictate his path. He instead relied on hard work and dedication and fought his way to becoming an All-American high school and collegiate wrestler and the first-ever Big 12 wrestling champ while attending the University of Missouri.
In 2005, he began his MMA career, and by the time he made his UFC debut in 2013, Woodley had a 12-1 record, with eight wins coming by way of knockout or submission. In the big leagues, he made his presence known with first-round knockout wins over Jay Heiron, Josh Koscheck, Dong Hyun Kim, and then–welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.
At UFC 228, the end result will likely set up one of two scenarios for Woodley: help him to reestablish himself as the premier welterweight, or force an aging fighter to reestablish himself as a contender. Judging by the past, smart money would bet on the former, because despite his moniker of “the Chosen One,” greatness was never left to chance for Tyron Woodley—it was a choice.
- Birthdate: April 7, 1982
- Height: 5’9”
- Weight: 200 lbs; 170 lbs. (when fighting)
- Birthplace: Ferguson, MO
- Nickname: The Chosen One
- MMA Record: 18-3-1
- Instagram and Twitter: @twooodley
Woodley’s Training Regimen
Woodley has come a long way since his days as a wrestler at the University of Missouri, where he worked out with one goal in mind: to move as much weight as possible.
“When I first got to Mizzou, everyone did the same football lifts—Olympic lifts, squats, bench presses, and deadlifts,” Woodley says. For those of you wondering, yes, T-Wood is as strong as he looks. At 165 pounds, he squatted 425 pounds for five reps, benched 365 for five, and deadlifted “600 or 605…something crazy.” An elite athlete to boot, he also boasted a 43-inch vertical jump.
Those days are long in the past. Now Woodley forgoes heavy weights altogether and focuses on his agility—with ladder and band work—and conditioning. “Now I don’t need to be underneath anything more than 185 to 200 pounds,” he explains. “I don’t need more muscle. I need endurance. I need explosion. I need quick feet. So that’s why I’m hitting the agility ladder, pushing a sled, doing sprints, and slamming the medicine ball. These are the things that I can do and still perform at 100 percent.”
Below is one of the full-body workouts Woodley used to prep for UFC 228. Win or lose, he no doubt was in the best damn shape he’s ever been in.
Woodley’s Title-Card Workout
Perform exercises marked with the same number back-to-back, with no rest in between. After each circuit/superset is complete, adhere to the prescribed rest time.
- 1A. Versaclimber Sprint: 3 sets of 30 sec.
- 1B. Swiss Ball Plank Extension: 3 sets of 20
- 1C. Banded Back Extension: 3 sets of 20
Rest 45 sec.
- 2A. Lateral Band Walk: 1 set of 20 (each way)
- 2B. Forward Band Walk: 1 set of 20 (forward and back)
- 2C. Lunge With External Rotation: 1 set of 10 (per side)
- 2D. Walking Hamstring Stretch: 1 set of 10 (per side)
Rest 45 sec.
- 3A. Trap-Bar Deadlift: 5 sets of 10
- 3B. Vertical Jump: 5 sets of 5
Rest 45 sec.
- 4A. Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 sets of 15, 12, 10
- 4B. Lateral Band Abduction: 3 sets of 20 (per side)
- 4C. Pullup: 3 sets of 12
- 4D. Banded Face-Pull: 3 sets of 20
Rest 60 sec.
- 5A. Inverted Row*: 3 sets of 15
- 5B. Dumbbell Raise Series**: 3 sets of 20 (each move)
Rest 45 sec.
*Begin each set with a 5-second isometric hold at the top.
**Perform 20 lateral raises, then 20 front raises, then 20 more lateral raises with light dumbbells. (Woodley uses 10 to 15 pounds.)