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Tyron Woodley 'never lost hope' he'd get shot at Robbie Lawler's title

Esther Lin photo

After Tyron Woodley's No. 1 contender fight with Johny Hendricks fell out the day before UFC 192 due to Hendricks' weight-cut issues, Woodley was promised a shot at the UFC welterweight title.

And Woodley's finally getting it ... at UFC 201, nine months later, where he'll meet Robbie Lawler in the main event in Atlanta.

But according to the American Top Team fighter, while he had his moments of worry, especially given how many promised UFC title shots haven't come through over the years, he never stopped believing he'd get his chance.

"I never lost hope it was coming to fruition," Woodley said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "I made this my training camp logo. You can delay but you can't deny. I want to be the welterweight champion of the world."

Of course, to get there, Woodley had to endure a gamut of speculation on who Lawler's next opponent might be -- from rumors of a Georges St-Pierre return to a rematch of the UFC 195 barnburner with Carlos Condit to Stephen Thompson as the new flavor of the month -- before he got the bod.

At the end of the day, though, Woodley doesn't care whether he was UFC president Dana White's first pick in title challengers or his last, so long as he gets the opportunity.

"I did have some nerves until [the fight] was announced on UFC on FOX, because, you never know what can happen," Woodley said. "What if GSP comes back or, what if this person, so many different options. I feel like I should have been the first option but I wasn't the first option. I was probably the last option. God has a saying, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. ... I said to Dana, hey man, how many people gotta fall out of the running to realize I'm the number one choice? I just need a chance."

With the bout official, the next step was figuring out how to handle training, as both fighters are affiliated. While Lawler's the highest-profile ATT fighter as a current UFC champ, Woodley's been around longer, having started with the team as an amateur.

So Woodley, who does some of his training at Missouri's Evolution and also Milwaukee's Rofousport, will continue working in South Florida in the buildup to the Lawler fight.

"I've been at American Top Team since amateur," Woodley said. "I will be the first world champion from American Top Team in the organization that started with them as an amateur from 2005, that has grown with them and grown through the tradition of the American Top Team and will bring home the UFC gold. I will be the first one to do that."

Woodley's also placing trust in his teammates, believing they'll handle the situation like pros.

"I can't see too many guys trying to eavesdrop and be, he's doing this, or he jammed his toe in sparring," Woodley said. "I don't think that's going to happen. We are professionals."

When Daniel Cormier had to drop out of his UFC 196 main event against Jon Jones due to a leg injury, rumors abounded that the UFC tried to put together Lawler-Woodley on short notice as a replacement main event. Lawler nixed the idea, but Woodley says he probably would have turned the fight down in that situation, as well.

"He's the champion, and if I was in position, I wouldn't jump on a last-minute fight," Woodley said. "That would be a big risk for him with very little reward, so I think he did what a champion should have done."

Instead, the fight will take months three months later, under the only conditions in which the friends and teammates would agree to fight.

"We've always had a creed: No strap, no scrap. No its a strap on the line, so we're going to set the friendship aside and get it on."

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