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Tyron Woodley coach Din Thomas: Only real game plan at UFC 260 was, ‘don’t back up to the fence’

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UFC 260: Woodley v Luque Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Veteran MMA coach Din Thomas has been coaching fighters long enough not to get too attached to the outcome in the cage. But in the case of Tyron Woodley, he doesn’t consider the ex-champ’s loss at UFC 260 a bad thing – or really even a loss.

“I’m really proud of what he did,” Thomas told MMA Fighting on Monday. “He went out there and fought, and that’s what he’s been missing the last two years, and I was proud of him. I thought he fought great. He just got beat.”

Woodley was stopped in the first round of a frenetic fight with Vicente Luque in the co-main event of this past Saturday’s pay-per-view event in Las Vegas. It was the final bout on his contract with the UFC, and UFC President Dana White indicated his octagon career is over. But the exec also praised the ex-champ’s performance and awarded him a fight-night bonus.

Woodley came straight after Luque and hurt the Brazilian with a punch before taking a hard shot that left him on wobbly legs. Luque then seized a D’Arce choke and forced a tap.

Afterward, Woodley said he didn’t regret his early aggression “as that’s what God created me to do” and said he’d been pushed “in ways I haven’t been pushed in a while” for his training camp.

Much of Woodley’s preparation for the fight took place in Southern California with Antonio McKee at Team Bodyshop. That limited Thomas’ work with his longtime charge, but he said the two got a couple of weeks together.

Usually, Thomas breaks down footage to assemble a list of particulars for a fighter to work on. But he hasn’t seen Woodley’s bout and doesn’t see the need.

“I have no real issue with what Tyron did, to be honest with you,” he said. “I was actually quite proud of Tyron. I was very happy with his performance. He just got clipped. He really showed that he was a fighter, and that was the important thing.”

In his previous three performances, Woodley was outworked almost in every moment he was in the cage. He lost 14 straight rounds, starting with a decision loss to Kamaru Usman that cost him the welterweight title, before being stopped via fifth-round TKO against rival Colby Covington.

Heading into this past Saturday’s fight, Woodley said his thoughts were focused on performing in the octagon rather than his future in the UFC. Thomas hoped for the same.

“The reality was, I really just wanted Tyron to fight,” he said. “That’s it. Because the last three fights, he didn’t really fight. He just showed up and just tried not to get finished, it seemed like.”

When Woodley charged out and locked up with Luque, Thomas said that was definitely a part of the game plan. A takedown was on the to-do list, as well, but Luque was able to stay upright and force Woodley into a standup fight.

For Thomas, even that was better than the alternative.

“The only real game plan was, ‘Hey, don’t back up to the fence,’” he said. “It’s almost do anything you want, just don’t back up to the fence.”

As for what comes next for Woodley, Thomas’ only relative certainty is that it won’t involve a fight in the octagon. The two discussed a few possibilities for the future, he said, but no concrete plans were made. Whatever happens, though, he will support the fighter.

“I can’t imagine the UFC re-signing him,” Thomas said. “I think if they wanted him around, they would have renegotiated with him, so I can’t imagine them doing that. But Tyron is a brilliant businessman. He’s a good dude. He’s got connections all over.

“In terms of what he’s done with his career, a lot of people can look at his career and say he may have ruffled some feathers in the fight world, but at the same time, he’s also set himself up to where he has options afterward, and that’s something not a lot of fighters can say. ... He can do whatever he wants now, and I’m not saying that because his fight career is over, because he could go to another organization and continue to fight, or he could do different things.

“He said he was open to fighting in anything, whether it be bare-knuckle, whether he was fighting in Japan, he was open to it. I think it’s just a matter of who is willing to pay him, and then go from there, whether it’s worth for him to get paid or channel his energies into different things.”