By all accounts, the next man challenging for the UFC welterweight champion will be Demian Maia. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu savant earned that right after capturing his seventh straight win at UFC 211 with a hard-fought split decision over Jorge Masvidal.
That’s just fine with reigning UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Woodley said Monday on The MMA Hour that UFC officials haven’t yet asked him about Maia, but if they do, he’ll be more than willing to face the 39-year-old contender. However, if “T-Wood” had his druthers, a different name would still fall at the top of his wish list.
“Georges St-Pierre is always going to be that, no matter the money, no matter the city,” Woodley said on The MMA Hour. “If it’s in freakin’ Montreal, if it’s freakin’ for $100,000. No matter what the situation is, that’s always going to be the best fight. He was the best in the world. If he’s still talking about competing, that’s always going to hang over my head. I can’t honestly say I’m the best welterweight in the world knowing that he’s still wanting to fight, so that’s going to take precedence over everything.”
St-Pierre is expected to return to the UFC later this fall, fighting for the first time since his late-2013 exit from the sport. St-Pierre was originally announced for a showdown against UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping at an undetermined date, however that contest now appears to be on the ropes, with UFC president Dana White publicly voicing a desire to move on from the bout due to St-Pierre’s unwillingness to fight earlier in the year.
Woodley, meanwhile, has been publicly chasing St-Pierre — a legend of the sport who is widely considered be the greatest welterweight of all-time — ever since capturing the UFC welterweight title in July 2016. And Woodley admitted Monday that he wasn’t exactly excited about the prospect of facing Maia due to the Brazilian’s lack of drawing power and grinding style, which is something he feels another name on his hit-list could remedy.
“An exciting fight, something I believe could produce my first rivalry maybe, my first back-and-forth press conference, is maybe a Nick Diaz,” Woodley said. “In my opinion, he’s a lineal top-five welterweight, what he’s done for the sport, how he actually got people excited about it. He was really just himself and that became an image, and I think he can do that everyday because that’s him, so I respect him, I respect what he’s done for MMA. That’s another fight that excites me. I just don’t see beating Demian Maia really putting another notch on my belt like those two guys would.
“Now, granted, he’s got what, 17, 18, 19 wins in the UFC? Something ridiculous. He took Anderson Silva to a decision. He rattled off seven victories in a row. Man, how do you do that type of stuff in silence? Think about it. It’s our sport. Our sport does not allow jiu-jitsu, the building block of the UFC — it has not allowed it to be great. It’s not respected. It’s not something that everyone wants to see. That’s how he’s been able to rattle off seven victories against top opponents and not get the credit. It’s not my fault. I didn’t do it.”
Woodley has called out both St-Pierre and Diaz in the past. In fact, he did so immediately following his first title win over Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. Neither booking seemed likely at the time, but with St-Pierre potentially returning to the drawing board if the Bisping fight gets canceled, a fight against St-Pierre could suddenly become a possibility, and Woodley maintains that the former welterweight champion is simply avoiding him due to what he perceives to be an unfavorable stylistic match-up.
“I’m the best welterweight in the world and I feel like Georges St-Pierre should’ve fought me,” Woodley said. “He should’ve come back (to welterweight). Fighting Bisping, I think that was the cowardly move. He’s going to fight someone who doesn’t have the ability to concuss him like I would, or Johny Hendricks would, or Robbie Lawler would. That’s why he went (up in weight).
“If Stephen Thompson would’ve beaten me, I guarantee that his first fight back would’ve been against Stephen Thompson, a similar karate-style fighter that he’s probably seen a million times, he’s trained with him, he doesn’t have the one-punch KO power, he’s not going to submit him, he’s not going to stop his shot. It’s the safer fight for a big payday. So with that said, I just kinda raise my eyebrows, the fact that he would go up a weight class when there’s a willing, dominant champion that wants to take you on that’s excited about the fight. It surprised me, but hey, if it’s Demian Maia first or if it’s Georges St-Pierre first, everybody’s going to get it at the end of the day and I’m just excited to be where I’m at right now.”