Tyron Woodley may be 39 years old, but don’t tell him that an old dog can’t learn new tricks.
Woodley is set to box undefeated YouTube sensation Jake Paul tonight in an eight-round, 190-pound bout in Cleveland on pay-per-view. After more than a decade spent competing in the highest levels of MMA, Woodley said Monday on The MMA Hour that he’s never felt as good for a fight as he feels for Paul. He attributed that positive headspace to a combination of not being forced to cut weight to 170 pounds like he did for his MMA career, but also because of the cohesion he’s felt with his coaches and team ahead of the big night.
The former UFC welterweight champion pointed to a conversation he had with the wife of one of his coaches earlier in the day Monday as an example of what he meant. She asked Woodley how he felt — as in how he really, truly felt — with his date against Paul looming.
“I said, ‘It’s funny you say that. Because the way I feel is that if I would’ve had this knowledge [earlier]’ — like, I ain’t never ran this much in my life. Ever,” Woodley told host Ariel Helwani. “God, stuff I didn’t even think was physically possible for me to do at 25. I said, ‘If I would’ve had this level of expertise with the striking and everything making sense, if I would’ve had this level of running, if I would’ve had this level of just dedication’ — I said, ‘There was a time when nobody could beat me. Imagine if I would’ve had that then. I would’ve not been just top five pound-for-pound — I would’ve been the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. I wouldn’t have lost a second of a fight.’ And you know what she told me? ‘It ain’t over.’
“That gave me goosebumps. It ain’t over.”
The line has become somewhat of a mantra for Woodley.
He doubled down on the notion that there “ain’t no ifs” with his fight against Paul. It’s when — not if — he beats the controversial 24-year-old.
And once that happens and Woodley is able to say “I told you so” to the world, he won’t be surprised if certain, unexpected doors in both MMA and boxing open back up to him.
“You never know,” Woodley said. “After that conversation I had today with my coach’s wife about ‘it ain’t over,’ don’t be surprised. After this fight, you don’t know who’s going to call me on Monday. So at the end of the day, I’m just going to keep my doors open.”
That being said, despite his accomplishments as a decorated former UFC champion, Woodley is still the betting underdog with as high as 2-to-1 odds on some sportsbooks.
It’s no secret why Paul picked Woodley. The 39-year-old ended his UFC career with four consecutive losses — three of them blowouts — and hasn’t won a fight since 2018. Even worse, he’s barely been competitive outside of brief flashes in his first-round submission loss to Vicente Luque.
But all of those losses came against men who could easily be classified as top-5 welterweights in the world. And Paul? He’s certainly not that.
“I see a kid who’s going to come out and this is his one chance,” Woodley said. “Like, think about this, if you got a chance to go one-on-one with Michael Jordan for all the marbles, you’re turning up. Who cares? You’re going to give everything you got. That’s the danger. That’s all I see. I don’t see sh*t else. I don’t see experience. I don’t see alpha male. I’m not going to say I really saw fear, but I saw maybe uncertainty that he bit off a little bit more than he can chew. Because he could’ve picked the other two [opponent options], you know what I mean? And he would’ve gotten paid the same money for either one.
“But he picked a person that, if he loses, OK, he lost to a five-time champion. Look at his [Instagram] handle — [he posted something about] five years ago I was doing this and he was doing that. He’s already hedging his bet. He’s already getting back-pocket excuses set. He’s already ready for it. He already put the rematch clause in from the genesis. From the top of the top of the f*cking announcement, you’re already going to say, ‘If you beat me up, I want a chance to get it back?’ Who’s not confident? I’m excited.”
Woodley has never been much for predictions, but Sunday is a special case. After spending an entire MMA career fighting monsters like Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit, and Darren Till — and thriving — Woodley simply can’t envision any outcome but one when he visualizes the big night.
“I’m knocking him out,” Woodley said. “That’s it. You don’t need to know how many rounds. I don’t even care how quick because my last time sparring, in the eighth round, I was throwing the craziest counter combinations with first-round power.
“So it doesn’t matter what round. It’s cool for you guys, if y’all want me to say first round because I sound cool if it happens — OK, first round, ‘Mystic Woodley.’ But I’m patient. I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to take my time, but I’m going to be trying the entire fight to knock him out. There’s not going to be one moment I’m not trying to knock him out.”
Woodley added: “I’m about to make a bag, I’m about to beat somebody’s ass, and I’m about to change my kids’ lives.”