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Tyron Woodley believes he’s the ‘worst-treated champion’ in UFC history

UFC 205 Press Conference

LOS ANGELES -- Tyron Woodley isn’t happy with the UFC, or some of its fans it appears, calling himself the “worst-treated champion” in the history of the promotion.

The UFC welterweight champ believes he could be the fighter who helps the UFC break through in a big way with African-American combat sports fans, particularly considering the void left by the retirement of boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I think I’m the only African-American fighter on the roster who can capture the market,” Woodley said Wednesday at a UFC media lunch. “Especially with Floyd Mayweather retiring and things like that. But you have to educate the community on what it is.”

Woodley, who defends his title in a rematch with Stephen Thompson in the main event of UFC 209 on March 4 in Las Vegas, believes a better job of outreach would help educate black fans on what the sport is and isn’t.

“Most people in the community, those people think that mixed martial artists are a whole bunch of crazy white guys kicking on each other and they sprinkle in a few brothers,” Woodley said. “That’s their thought. They don’t see it as karate, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, sambo. They don’t see it’s a beautiful art with so many martial arts combined in them. Not only that, it’s an affordable art. They can afford mixed martial arts. With that said, I think that’s UFC’s job.”

Woodley cited as an example the marketing for UFC 205, the first mixed martial arts card at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, to bolster his point.

“If they want to take it to the next level, I felt New York was the perfect opportunity,” said Woodley, who retained his title against Thompson via majority draw at the show. “The Mecca of hip hop, they could have gone a little bit better to promote me in a different way, to grab that market, not only to grab those PPV buys, but to bring in a complete different demographic, but also for the youth. This is the way to keep them off the streets, this is the way to turn things into something positive. Martial arts is about respect.”

At the end of the day, the UFC puts its promotional muscle behind fighters with strong fan connections, helping turn fighters like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey into superstars. Woodley believes he has all the attributes to reach the next level.

“Certain athletes, they show the UFC, to the fans, that they are marketable,” Woodley said. “What happens is, the UFC gets behind them. They start to push them. I’m a husband, I’m a father of four, I’m a gym owner. I’m an actor. I’m an analyst. I’m a stuntman. I’m a Christian. Every avenue you can take me, I’ve got it. I grew up in the projects. I grew up in gangbanging. Family of 14 in a four-family house and I made a choice to be successful. What is there not to market? I’m fighting like hell. I’m not doing performance-enhancing drugs in my life. ... Why would they not want to market me?”

Woodley touched upon the subject of racial issues in the mixed martial arts culture several times during a whirlwind media tour of the Los Angeles area on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, in an appearance on ESPN, he was very vocal about what he sees on a daily basis.

“The second I bring up race in the sport I’m immediately race baiting,” Woodley continued. “I can point out clear facts: no other champion has been treated like me. I’m not saying they support [Thompson] more, but he has some fans who have crossed the line. It’s not his fault, I’m not saying it’s him, let’s get clear on that. I do respect him. I have been friendly and cordial with him, I will be friendly and cordial when we walk out. But let’s put the cards on the table. Real is real. If I was a different complexion, I feel fans would treat me a different way.”

Woodley also questioned why fans haven’t taken to talents like the fighter many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter on Earth, UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson.

“The best pound-for-pound fighter, Demetrious Johnson, African-American male, completely a Tasmanian devil. Why doesn’t he have the big endorsements?” Woodley asked. “Why isn’t he making the most money? What’s the difference? Think about it. The second Jon Jones steps on a banana peel, granted, he’s his own worst enemy, but, they can’t wait to throw him underneath the bus. People of different races get so many different chances.”

Toward the end of the ESPN interview, Woodley summed up his feelings strongly.

“I'm by far the worst treated champion in the history of the UFC, blatantly facts,” he said. “When March 4 come along, I will defend this belt, I will move forward in my legacy, and I will continue to do what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

“I fight for my family, I fight for God, I fight for my legacy. I don't fight for fame, I don't fight for money, contrary to what people believe,” Woodley added. “I'm going out here and trying to be a legend. I'm trying to be the best welterweight that ever graced the Octagon. To do that, I have to knock [Thompson] off again, I have to knock three or four other loudmouths off again until it's undeniable I'm the best welterweight on the planet Earth.”

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