Tyron Woodley said Monday that he hasn’t yet been contacted by the UFC about defending his welterweight title against Demian Maia, but if Maia is indeed next — as UFC president Dana White alluded to after UFC 211 — Woodley is open to the match-up.
“I’m not against fighting Demian Maia,” Woodley said on The MMA Hour. “I think, out of all the guys in the top-10 that are really threatening guys who are frightening in the Octagon — whether it’s submissions or knockouts or just their ability to be tough — I match up the best with him. I’ve fought that style so many different times. I’ve trained against that style.
“My last five fights have been against southpaws — Dong Hyun Kim, Kelvin Gastelum, Robbie Lawler, Stephen Thompson — so as far as the stance and the style, I’ve seen it so many times and I have such great resources, guys like Ben Askren. I might even pick up the phone and grab Jake Shields, because a lot of people don’t realize that Jake Shields went to Brazil and dominated Demian Maia.”
Maia extended his division-best winning streak to seven straight at UFC 211, capturing a hard-fought split decision over Jorge Masvidal in a back-and-forth affair. Afterward, Maia knelt in front of White in the Octagon to request — and ultimately be granted — the UFC welterweight title shot that has eluded him throughout his latest run.
But while the 39-year-old Brazilian is certainly the most deserving contender in the 170-pound division, he doesn’t provide the same type of promotional firepower that a challenger like Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz would, and Woodley admitted the match-up isn’t really one that excites him.
“It didn’t interest me,” Woodley said. “It didn’t make my adrenaline pump. To be honest, neither one of those guys (Maia or Masvidal) did, because they’re trying to build their brand up and I’m trying to build my brand up, and I feel like my brand is a little bit further than theirs is, so it didn’t really interest me. You’ve got to realize, man, I’ve been in two very annoying training camps. Stephen Thompson is not a fun training camp. It’s not fun having Sage Northcutt kick you through a cage or having all these different guys throwing random kicks that you’ve never seen before and dealing with it, and not being able to explode like you want to at times, and being very wise, because if you make a millimeter mistake, you get knocked out.
“So for me to go into another camp — the two best specialists in our sport just so happen to be in my weight class. There’s no other weight class that has these guys who are specialists who are still around. It’s not like the Royce Gracie days, but Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia have found a way to adapt their striking style and grappling style into an MMA style, and it’s very frustrating. So I was excited — Jorge Masvidal, he kinda pumped me out a little bit with some of his shenanigans during the interviews. It would’ve been a fun training camp.
“I had Shane Mosley Jr., his son was going to spar with me. I had a whole set-up at Wildcard Boxing. I was already planning a camp based on possibly fighting Masvidal or Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz, a striker. And now, I haven’t talked to Dana yet, they haven’t called and offered me the fight yet, I’ll get with those guys are see what’s what, but to be honest — you know me, I’ve never taken anyone lightly, but think about [UFC 211]. How ridiculous was that card? And if you can think of one fight, one fight on the whole card, which one are you going to plan on it maybe not being the adrenaline-packed or the action-packed fight? It’s going to be that one. And you’re going to put me in that fight again? So I can have to hear all this stuff from the fans again? I’m going to get it done if that’s the next fight up, but don’t blame me.”
Woodley’s welterweight title reign has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, bogged down by a pair of fights against Thompson at UFC 205 and UFC 209. After the first Thompson fight ended in a contentious majority draw, the rematch ended in further controversy, as Woodley defeated Thompson via majority decision in a contest that drew widespread criticism for its long stretches of inactivity. Likewise, Maia’s current run is undoubtedly impressive, however his BJJ-centric style has proven somewhat polarizing for a fanbase that delights in stand-up affairs, and Woodley isn’t thrilled about the prospect of another potentially unpopular title defense.
That being said, Maia remains one of the most talented and decorated jiu-jitsu artists to ever step foot in the Octagon, a mat wizard who confounds his foes with back-takes from seemingly any position on the canvas, and Woodley is confident he has the tools to stop Maia where Carlos Condit, Gunnar Nelson, Matt Brown and so many others could not.
“You start seeing Demian Maia when he doesn’t get that shot,” Woodley said. “When he starts to get punched, those shots start coming really wide open. They start coming with no set-ups. It’s almost like he’s gotten underneath their legs. And if remember my fight against Andre Galvao, I’m not the guy you want to do that to. I will knock you out.”
Woodley said he isn’t sure yet what date the UFC is targeting his next title defense. He’s already in camp and would be willing to step in for July 8 at UFC 213 or July 29 at UFC 214, or even some time in August at the latest, if the UFC prefers. He said he would need to be offered “seven figures” to accept a fight against Maia in Maia’s home country of Brazil, but regardless of where and when he lands on the calendar, he indicated that he’s “not going to be easy to deal with” in negotiations with the UFC because of Maia’s lack of drawing power.
“I’m going to be in Vegas for the Athlete’s Retreat deal coming up, so I’ll set up some meetings with Dana and the guys and I’ll what their plans are,” Woodley said. “But I’m not going to be easy to deal with, man; Demian Maia’s not a guy who’s going to push the needle. I don’t even know what the pay-per-view numbers were for Stephen Thompson, but I can’t go out here and try to start something or pump up these fans for a fight that, one, you’ve already seen the first one (Thompson), so it’s like a self-sell fight, and then secondly, this guy (Maia) is going to be like the most nice, gentlest human being on Earth.
“I respect him, and you know me, I’m not going to do something that’s not me. I’m not going to go and start something that’s not there. But at the end of the day, this is a prizefighting situation, so I think champions in the past have been compensated for opponents that may not push the needle and they may not get the (pay-per-view) points you think you’re going to get, and a little extra fat was thrown on the top for them. So, me knowing that, I’m going to go in there and look for that myself.”