Tyron Woodley has heard everything Nate Marquardt’s said about testosterone-replacement therapy. He heard it when Marquardt said that he got on TRT to treat a legitimate medical condition. He heard it when Marquardt said he got off the TRT after being released from the UFC. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Woodley believes it.
"I just think, just from the surface knowledge I have about TRT, it’s not something you hop on and hop off," Woodley told me when I spoke to him for this Sports Illustrated story. "From what I hear, if you’re on that stuff your body starts to depend on it. I just don’t think somebody going into a title fight with that much on the line would be so comfortable jumping off of it and being like hey, I’ve got it from here. You’d think those would be the times when you’d take it up a level, if anything."
Then again, Woodley isn’t sure it’s going to matter in the end. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s fought someone who he believed was "on some extra love," and yet he’s still undefeated as a professional. It’s just that he’s never fought anyone as experienced and well-rounded as Marquardt is, and he knows it.
It’s been seven months since Woodley last stepped in the cage, winning a split decision over Jordan Mein that ultimately earned him the right to fight for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title on Saturday night. As for Marquardt, he’s been out of action since March of 2011. Elevated testosterone levels due to TRT use kept him out of a UFC bout with Rick Story, resulting in his release from the organization. A subsequent deal with U.K.-based promoter BAMMA went nowhere, leaving him in career limbo. When he fights Woodley for the Strikeforce title, it will be his first contest in nearly 16 months. As for how that will effect him, Woodley can’t be sure.
"I have to assume he’s coming with some new tricks, but I’ve got to be able to beat him. Being out for a year, supposedly being off TRT, and coming down to a new weight class could all have an effect, but you’ve got to factor in that he’s had almost 50 fights. Experience could come into play too."
That’s one area where Marquardt definitely has Woodley beat. With more than 13 years and over 40 fights versus Woodley’s ten bouts in three years, Marquardt has seen much more action inside the cage than the former University of Missouri wrestler. Lately, it’s his wrestling skills that have made up for Woodley’s relative inexperience in MMA, leading to a string of decisions that have resulted in some criticism of his fighting style.
"That’s a balance you have to find," Woodley said. "The reality is, this is more entertainment now than it is a sport. We can argue it. We can complain about it. But a win is not a win anymore. A win has to be done in a certain fashion, consistently, over and over again against top opponents. Everyone expects you to finish top opponents. But I don’t want to be finished. Some guys really don’t want to be finished, and they just won’t go away. You have to keep trying, but I don’t feel that pressure to be Jon Jones every fight."
The trouble is, a wrestler like Woodley can only win so many decisions before he’s forever labeled ‘boring’ by fans, media, and even fellow fighters. He’s already heard some of that criticism, and his doing his best not to let it get to him or make him change his fighting style, he said.
"You have to be comfortable and confident in yourself, and I am," said Woodley. "I can look in the mirror every day, and I don’t feel bad about any of the victories I’ve had. I’m providing for my family, I’m going to make my mark in mixed martial arts, and I know I will knock guys out and I will submit guys. I’ve done it in the past and I’ll do it in the future. I haven’t taken a pledge to make all my fights decisions. I can do other things. Most people that are critics are either spectators or media. Not a lot of fighters criticize me for that, and the fighters that do criticize are the ones that know they’re going to get beat."
Marquardt’s already become one of Woodley’s critics, calling him "a boring fighter" in interviews leading up to this fight. And yeah, Woodley’s heard that too. But like Marquardt’s TRT comments, that doesn’t necessarily mean he believes it.