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Tyron Woodley’s coach thinks Woodley enters welterweight GOAT conversation with defenses over Covington, Usman

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Tyron Woodley is quickly moving up the ranks of the greatest welterweights to ever compete. The reigning UFC welterweight champion, Woodley routed previously unbeaten contender Darren Till earlier this month in Dallas, barely suffering a scratch en route to an impressive second-round submission victory at UFC 228. The win renewed debate about where Woodley sits on the all-time ranks of 170-pound greats.

Woodley, 36, has long spoken of wanting to go down as the greatest welterweight of all-time by the time he is done with MMA. That title is currently held by Georges St-Pierre, but Woodley seemingly entered the top-three discussion with his flawless victory over Till. Now, with Woodley having retained his UFC strap four consecutive times, his coach Din Thomas believes there is a path for Woodley to enter the “GSP” conversation with successful title defenses against his likely next two challengers: Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman.

“I think, at this point, I’m going to have to say second,” Thomas said recently on The MMA Hour when asked to assess Woodley’s all-time welterweight ranking. “Like you said, I think his résumé speaks for itself, when you think of the guys that he has beaten, even in his come-up, between like Carlos Condit, Kelvin Gastelum, Robbie Lawler. He’s beaten all those guys. But I think that a couple more title defenses will solidify his position. I think that’s all he needs. A win over Colby — to me, I think Colby’s an easy opponent, to be honest with you, but just on the résumé he kinda needs that just so he can have more title defenses — and maybe even Usman, but if he gets those two then he’s the best of all-time.”

At this point, a grudge match against Covington appears to be inevitable. Covington is the former interim champion and UFC president Dana White stated before UFC 228 that “Chaos” is the next in line to challenge for the welterweight title.

A bitter rivalry exists between Woodley and Covington, two former training partners at American Top Team. But while the lead-up to the fight could be an explosive one, Thomas maintains his belief that Covington could be easy work for Woodley once the cage doors close.

“He doesn’t have anything that’s dangerous to Tyron,” Thomas explained. “He doesn’t have the ability to knock him out with one punch if Tyron slips. He doesn’t have the ability to choke Tyron out — to play ‘take him down, take his back, choke him out.’ I don’t think he has that ability. The way Colby can win that fight is to obviously grind him out, and I don’t think he can outwrestle Tyron to get up to that point. So to me, that’s just kind of an easier matchup.”

Early discussions around the fight centered around it taking place on Nov. 3 at UFC 230, however it was revealed this past week that Woodley will be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks because of hand surgery stemming from a dislocated thumb and three torn ligaments.

As for the aftermath UFC 228, it wasn’t lost on both Woodley and Thomas that UFC president Dana White was a noticeably absent presence at the event’s post-fight press conference. White and Woodley have had a contentious relationship at times in the past, and many voices on the internet speculated in the days after UFC 228 that White’s absence indicated that he was unhappy with the result of Woodley’s win.

Speaking on The MMA Hour, Thomas wasn’t willing to go that far.

“Being on the (Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight) show with Dana, I know how hard he works. I know his schedule and I know he keeps everything really tight, so I would never speculate that he didn’t show up because he disliked Tyron or he didn’t want Tyron to win,” Thomas said. “In fact, when he came into the cage, he kinda gave me a nod and was like, ‘Good job.’ I mean, of course everybody’s going to speculate that he didn’t like it, but I know, like I said, Dana keeps a very tight schedule. I know that he was leaving — I was talking to his security guy afterward saying, ‘Man, we got a flight to catch.’

“And sometimes Dana, it’s just like, his schedule, he’s tired all the time, so I don’t want to use that as the excuse but I just know he keeps a tight schedule. So that’s the only reason why I could see he wouldn’t be at the press conference. I would like to see him come out with a statement and congratulate Tyron. That would be good, because it’s easy to criticize fighters, but when they show and prove, when they show up and give you what you ask, I think it’s only right to give them their props.”