Woodley Optimistic About Strikeforce, Says Chances of Beating Nick Diaz “Were Really Good”
By Kelsey Mowatt
As many fans and observers throughout the MMA world continue to play the waiting game in terms of what 2012 will bring for Strikeforce, one of the fighters whose likely been most impacted by the promotion’s uncertain future is Tyron Woodley. Not only did the undefeated welterweight miss out on fighting former champion and now UFC contender Nick Diaz, but Woodley continues to wait on the sidelines to see if and when his Strikeforce title shot will materialize.
“From what I’ve heard, whatever happens, a lot of people are going to be blindsided by it,” Woodley told FCF, while discussing the ongoing speculation regarding Strikeforce and its ongoing negotiations with the Showtime Network. “I don’t think anyone is going to get a lot of notice on whether we’re going to merge, whether we’re going to stay temporarily or whether it’s permanent. I’m just planning on being ready for an early fight in 2012, preferably for the Strikeforce belt, or go over to the UFC if that’s what happening.”
Although Woodley firmly entrenched his position as one of Strikeforce’s top commodities by defeating Paul Daley in July, by the time Zuffa and Showtime determine what’s the next, the top contender could go half a year or more without fighting.
“If I wasn’t opening up a gym it would bother me immensely,” said Woodley, who continues to work on opening the American Top Team Evolution gym in St. Louis, Missouri, which will have its grand opening in mid December. “I’m not a fighter who likes to just go nuts, beat everybody up all year round, I like to train and get better. I like to set a specific conditioning level and prepare for a fight camp. Then get into someone’s face, get an opponent who is exciting, who will further my career or get a title shot, and when you don’t have that it’s tough. I think I’ve just been consumed with setting up this gym the right way.”
Recently news surfaced that Ken Hershman, one of the Showtime’s former executives who UFC President Dana White has been critical of in the past, has left the network for HBO. Some observers have since wondered if the move might facilitate more productive discussions between Zuffa and Showtime.
“I think that’s the only reason why they haven’t come out publicly and said ‘yeah, we’re done,’ said Woodley about the ongoing negotiations, which have reportedly included White recently. “If you own Strikeforce, then you know whether or not you want to keep it around or get rid of it. It’s not a big secret; you know what you’re going to do.”
“I don’t think Showtime wants to miss out on this opportunity,” Woodley added. “Especially with the marketing muscle of the UFC and the promotional machine they have behind it…I think I’m in a good position no matter what happens, either way, and I can’t say that for everyone, but I feel at ease that I’ve done enough to make sure that I’ll be taken care of.”
With Woodley having won seven straight fights under the Strikeforce banner, which includes an aforementioned win over former contender Daley, a title fight with Diaz seemed likely. Of course, Diaz has since gone on to defeat BJ Penn in the UFC, and will challenge champion Georges St. Pierre in February.
“It’s not like they asked me if I wanted to fight Diaz and I said no; it wasn’t really a missed opportunity because it was out of my control,” said Woodley, while discussing the former champion’s departure and the fact the two never got to fight under the Strikeforce banner. “For him not to go to the UFC, to not fight GSP, I would question him. I wouldn’t turn that down to fight Tyron Woodley…Being unbiased, I didn’t have that kind of name at that point”.”
While Woodley understands from a business perspective, why Diaz made the move, he still believes he posed a serious threat to the renowned fighter’s reign as Strikeforce champion.
“I feel like he didn’t like the style match-up; I don’t care what he says or anyone says,” the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler noted, before citing other renowned wrestlers he believes Diaz will have difficulties with. “He’s going to have a problem with GSP, he will have a problem with Jon Fitch; he will have a problem with Josh Koscheck. Just flat out, he will have a problem with those guys and I’m in that same group. I think my chances of beating him were really good, and I don’t think my chance to fight him is over.”