After a 15-month layoff, Woodley returned to action on Saturday night in Las Vegas and ended up losing a lopsided decision to Burns, who has now picked up four straight wins at welterweight. While it’s now his second loss in a row overall, Woodley was in a better place compared to how he felt after his fight with Usman, which he described as an out-of-body experience that he couldn’t quite explain.
That wasn’t the case against Burns, who was ultimately just the better man at UFC on ESPN 9.
“I’ve got a weird peace for somebody who just got they ass whooped,” Woodley said during an Instagram Live session following the fight. “I don’t know why I’m at peace. Not with losing, not with defeating, not with losing to Gilbert. Gilbert came out and did his thing and at the end of the day, it wasn’t a situation like the [Kamaru] Usman fight where I just felt like I wasn’t there.
“I was there. I was present. I was responding. I heard what my coaches was saying. I just couldn’t get my hands on him. I can take a loss when I go out there and felt like I was present in my head and body.”
According to Woodley, he was well prepared for his main event showdown against Burns after a lengthy training camp where he was originally scheduled to face Leon Edwards back in March. The postponement of his fight to May only meant he felt more than ready as he set foot inside the octagon on Saturday night.
“I don’t have no excuses,” Woodley said. “I trained hard. I was in great shape. I felt like I did everything right. Everything felt good from the walkout to the stretch, every single thing about the fight. I looked him in the eyes yesterday and I knew he was going to be ready to fight, which I thought that was good.
“He did a good job of keeping the distance, not coming into shots and I just felt like I was reaching.”
From the moment the fight started, Burns was on the attack and Woodley conceded that the opening round really made a huge difference in the rest of his performance.
“I know the first round started out rough,” Woodley explained. “I don’t know how that motherf**ker elbowed me. I know he kicked me in my damn leg and that motherf**ker ain’t been right since. He kicked me in my damn leg and ever since then that motherf**ker was just not right. I could not get a rhythm going.”
While there weren’t many bright spots in the fight, Woodley is still proud of himself for sticking around until the final bell. He had a lot on his mind with the protests happening across the country, and he admits that played a part in his will to continue against Burns.
“I wasn’t fitting to f**king give up, and I was just thinking about everybody right now, who’s protesting and fighting for something good with missing [George] Floyd’s family, so I’m like, I can’t just give up in here,” Woodley said. “I never really gave up hope that I was going to win the fight to be honest.”
For the first time in his career, Woodley will now have to move forward after two straight losses, but he’s undeterred on his aspirations. He said he will allow some time to heal after going five rounds with Burns, but there’s no doubt he will return.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t come out with the win,” Woodley said on the UFC post-fight show. “I’m still going to hold my head high and I’m going to come back cause I’m a champion.”