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Tyron Woodley to Johny Hendricks: 'We need to get this fight on'

Steve Marcus/Getty Images

For now, Tyron Woodley is physically sidelined. After breaking his foot in the first round in a winning performance over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 183 in late January, the UFC welterweight has been doing his best to stay in shape, but won't get the cast off of his foot until next week. From there, there's rehab to do.

But for as much as his body has been taking it easy, his mind is racing.

On an appearance on Monday's The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, the top contender sounded off on a host of topics. What he mostly focused on, though, was what he sees as wrong with the state of the UFC's welterweight division, the opportunities that are coming his way and how to fix them.

As he sees it, it makes no sense that Matt Brown fought Johny Hendricks at UFC 185 last Saturday, and when the bout was over, Woodley says he was sure to let the powers that be that something needs to change.

"I sent [messages] to [UFC President Dana White] the next morning because I didn't want to bug him," Woodley tells Helwani. "I know it was a long night. Usually it's just Dana. This time [UFC matchmaker] Joe [Silva] got a message. [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta] got a message."

And what got him so heated? While he was nothing against the fellow welterweight personally, Woodley says something is amiss when Matt Brown is getting more lucrative opportunities ahead of him.

"I'm tired of this, man," he laments. "It's at the point where I don't want to sound like I'm whining and complaining, but why do we have a rankings system? You have a no. 5 welterweight whose fought back-to-back no. 1 contender fights and has never beaten a top 10 welterweight ever. [Brown] beat Erick Silva and he beat Jordan Mein, which are tough guys. I'm taking nothing from those guys, but they're not top 10. They're not Tarec Saffiedine, Paul Daley, [Josh] Koscheck, Carlos Condit. They're not Dong Hyun Kim, whose beaten Matt Brown. They're not Kelvin Gastelum, who they said will fight for a world title if he beat me.

"At some point, you gotta realize we're getting tired of these rematches, tired of these trilogies. Johny Hendricks has fought GSP, it was a close fight. When I was there I thought he won, when I rewatched it I thought GSP won. He fought Robbie [Lawler] in two close fights. I think that we need some new blood. We got these guys like myself and other fighters who are doing what they're supposed to do. How does a no. 5 ranked fighter fight the no. 1 guy and I don't fight the no. 1 guy?"

Woodley believes while beating Gastelum was and is important, it clearly wasn't enough. He believes a different set of match-ups on a different timeline should've been made. As it stands, everything is on the wrong rhythm and the wrong fights are being created in the process.

"I feel like Matt Brown should've been fighting Carlos Condit. I should've been fighting Johny Hendricks and maybe Gastelum and Thiago [Alves] can fight or something. They can shuffle the deck a little bit differently. What they've done is, I think we've gotten a little greedy with the match-ups and it's throwing everybody off sync. Now you got these guys fighting in March and then you got Robbie and Rory [MacDonald] fighting in July. Technically, they didn't fight in a world title fight. They didn't even fight a five-round fight, so therefore, they should be ready to fight around July. They shouldn't wait seven to eight months. That's four months away. They're supposed to wait four months and then the champion is supposed to turn around and fight in two, three months? It's going to be eight months before the opportunity to fight the winner."

And what does Woodley want? It's simple, really. He believes the logical next step is to put he and Hendricks together. Woodley believes there's no reason to not make that fight.

"In the meantime, I think Johny should fight me. We got unfinished business from the Big 12 days. I think it's a great style match-up. Two wrestlers with heavy power, beating a lot of top 10 guys. I think that when he made his stake to get to the title, he did the same thing Rory did. They beat all these guys and they deserved the title, but they didn't get it. He finally got his opportunity. Now it's guys like me, who has had some bumps along the road, but I've came back like elastic. You saw me lose to freakin' Jake Shields and I bounced back and I knocked out freakin' Koscheck. I lose to Rory MacDonald. Two months later on short notice I knock out Dong Hyun Kim.

"Let's be for real," he says emphatically. "Let's get this going."

To date, though, UFC brass have not gotten back to him. At least, not yet. Woodley says he that fact doesn't bother him because as it stands, the most important people in the sport are vocally on his side.

"I got the feedback from the fans and I know they getting it because unless you just turn your notifications off, the social media world has been booming talking about this fight. I think it makes sense. I might even see Johny this weekend at the NCAA tournament.

"I'm a say, 'Hey, Johny. We can be cool before. We can be cool immediately after. We need to get this fight on, man.' It's what the fans want to see. It's great for the wrestling community, which is pretty much 75 percent of the top fighters are wrestlers. I think this fight makes a lot of sense."

As for how Hendricks looked against Brown, Woodley was nonplussed. "I thought he did what he had to do to win. I was more impressed by Matt Brown, to be honest," Woodley says of his collegiate wrestling rival. "I thought Matt Brown on his feet, man, he looked phenomenal. He was landing some nasty elbows. He was pressuring. I think he just got outclassed with the wrestling and even when he got up, finally got away, he was right back on Johny.

"I think Johny weathered the storm. I think in another round or two, if he wouldn't have been able to take him down, he might've been in some trouble, but he did what he needed to do. I'm not not of these guys. Let's get this clear. I don't call fighters out. I'm saying this is factual. It should happen because we got two top guys that are at a certain point in their career."

The other fact about Hendricks, Woodley contends, is what he should have to do to get another title shot. It's one thing to be a top contender and remain so after a win. It's another to get enough victories to merit another go at the belt altogether.

"Think about Robbie Lawler," he argues. "He lost to Johny within the last 90 seconds. What'd he have to do to get another title shot? He had to fight Jake Ellenberger and he had to fight Matt Brown. He had two fights in between, so why should Johny, who has been in the title fight the last three or four fights of his, why should he get an immediate shot after one win over a top 5 guy who has never beat a top 10 opponent? Let's be real. You gotta walk through a guy like me to get a title shot."

Aside from a lack of response from management, the only thing holding Woodley back is his body. Even that, Woodley says, shouldn't matter. When asked when he'd like to face Hendricks, he thinks the UFC 189 card where the welterweight title is being defended on July 11 makes all the sense in the world.

The key question, however, is can he rehab his foot in time? "I think so. Like I said, I'm going to push it as hard as I can. Right now, you gotta do the math."

Woodley counts the months out loud from here until then and says with undeniable enthusiasm, "That's four months. I'll be ready.

"Let's do it."

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