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Kamaru Usman: Tyron Woodley ‘holding himself back’ by picking and choosing opponents

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Kamaru Usman never had a personal grudge with Tyron Woodley. But he’s got some advice for the former UFC welterweight champion if he wants to get back to the title: just fight.

Usman defeated Woodley at UFC 235 to become welterweight champion and defended it this past December with a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington. A fight against Jorge Masvidal looms later this year.

Meanwhile, Woodley still hasn’t fought since falling to Usman in March 2019. A hand injury derailed a rematch with Robbie Lawler, and the coronavirus pandemic sunk his most recent matchup against Leon Edwards at UFC London.

In the wake of the March event’s cancellation, Woodley has been pushing for a fight with Covington, appearing far less interested in rebooking the matchup against Edwards, who’s currently riding an eight-fight win streak.

“This whole situation has kind of thrown a damper on things, but I feel like Tyron is holding himself back for god knows what,” Usman told MMA Fighting. “Cause you’re not getting any younger. You’re a talented guy. You’ve got a lot of skills. The only way for you to get back to the title is just to fight.

“Fight, guys. It doesn’t matter who you fight. Say yes to everybody. Go out there and fight, and I know he’s not saying yes to everybody.

“But say yes to anyone that they throw in front of you, and you go out there and knock out enough guys, guess what? They have no choice but to give you a title shot. This whole pick and choose who you want, this and that, that’s not working for you. Because the only thing you’re wasting is time.”

Immediately after losing the title, Woodley believed an immediate rematch could be warranted considering he was a multi-time defending champion. Unfortunately, he never got that opportunity, and he’s been stuck on the sidelines ever since.

It’s now been 13 months since Woodley last fought, and given the current climate, there’s no telling when he’ll get the chance to compete again.

Of course, Woodley can’t be blamed for an injury or the global pandemic delaying his return to action. But Usman knows there’s a growing list of contenders building momentum who are ready to face him, while the former champion is still sitting on a loss from over one year ago.

Rather than waiting for the perfect opponent at the exact right time, Usman suggests following a similar path as his teammate Gilbert Burns, who’s been ready to answer the call any time the UFC needed him.

That willingness to fight anyone at any time led to Burns receiving a high-profile fight against former title contender Demian Maia, whom he promptly knocked out in first round when they met in March.

“That’s the approach you have to have,” Usman said. “The difference is Tyron is still hanging onto that mentality of being a champion and being accustomed to a certain kind of treatment. You’re not in that in that situation.

“You’ve got to approach it like Gilbert [Burns] is approaching it. You want to put someone in front of me, it’s an opportunity to make some money and knock somebody out. That’s why Gilbert has ascended the way that he has.”

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