Tyron Woodley faces Jake Paul this Sunday on Showtime Pay-Per-View. Woodley, a former UFC welterweight champion, will be Paul's toughest opponent to date. Paul knocked out Woodley's friend Ben Askren back in April. Unlike Askren, who came into that fight out of shape having not fought since 2019, Woodley just fought in the UFC in March. The Big Lead spoke with Woodley about the upcoming bout, his media career and fighting during the pandemic.
TBL: What’s it like to fight someone with a different level of celebrity from your previous opponents?
Tyron Woodley: I’m not going to say he’s a real celebrity. When I think of a celebrity I think of [someone] everyone agrees is a big celebrity. He has a very unique fanbase. You look at the newer Instagram, influencer, bloggers... He needs to beat a highly touted opponent before we can give him that celebrity status. For me, he’s just a kid who found himself in boxing because of what he did on YouTube.
TBL: When did you first consider fighting Paul?
TW: Right after he fought Ben Askren, Ben said, ‘I think Tyron should fight him.’ That kind of makes sense. I’m in. He was like ‘Cool, you know, we’ll fight. I was surprised. When they finalized it was training as if I was going to fight him anyway, I just didn’t know. I’m just very thankful. I started running, started training, started boxing, started shedding weight and just started getting prepared so I got a jumpstart on this training camp before we kicked into full-fledged savage mode.
TBL: How do you think the fight will play out?
TW: I just feel like I’m a better fighter overall. I think I’ve got more experience. You’re talking about his career, you know you don’t have with three fights and I feel like at the end of the day I'm in a situation where I’ve been there, done that. I’m on my second wind right now. He’s just a young and spunky fighter who punches hard and he’s fast, but he’s not any of that. You put that all in perspective of who’s got more experience as well as whose faster and punches harder. I think I check all those boxes.
TBL: When the fight is over, I saw that you wanted to keep boxing. Where do you see yourself in the boxing world?
TW: Just looking at fighting Jake Paul, there’s going to be a lot of boxers wanting to fight me. Some people don’t take too kindly to individuals that didn’t start in boxing or have a huge amateur career or pro career going out there and headlining and making the kind of money we’re going to make. There’s going to be a few boxers waiting to set up and see if I’m real. I have a lot of options and choices with a victory.
TBL: How does the pay for this fight compare to what you were making in the UFC?
TW: I made money in the UFC. I don’t know why people think I didn’t make money. It’s kind of funny. It’s not my first time making a bag for a fight. It’s just the first time people are really promoting the fight off of money. Conor is the only one that’s really promoting his fights off of money because he’s going the boxing route. He took what Floyd Mayweather did and he ran with it. So at the end of the day I'm making a lot of money for the fight but I made a lot of money in MMA, especially with my career.
TBL: It's just a little harder for the smaller fighters to wrap their heads around how much money is involved in a boxing match.
TW: They're putting money in to get money out. The presentation behind the rivalry that me and Jake have is what it's really all about. It's not really a sport as much as we make it. It’s more entertainment. If people want to watch him win or lose or watch me win or lose they’re going to tune in. When we go out and box and compete we’re going to be competing in the sport, but we’re really entertaining.
TBL: What would it do to his marketability if you go out there and beat him up?
TW: He’s already hedging his bets. He’s just going to be the little kid that’s crazy that took on this UFC champion. He’s going to be able to bounce back and fight another fight. Nobody’s really going to trip over him losing.
TBL: Your last three fights were in empty arenas. Are you excited to be back in front of fans?
TW: Hell yeah. I fooled myself like, 'oh I like it better,' but there’s something about having that big Madison Square Garden card or fighting on a Jon Jones card or just something that had a lot of people just yelling and screaming. You get into the fight and it brought me a type of energy and I fed off of it in a way I didn’t realize that it did and until I was in APEX and it was just cameras and super quiet in there.
TBL: Looking back at this time last year, what was it like during the [early] pandemic?
TW: It was difficult because you had to practice safe. I had to close down my gym. Nobody else could train there except for me and my partners. Everybody had to be COVID tested regularly. I was blessed and thankful that I had my own gym. I didn’t have to go to other gyms if I didn’t want to and I could really just be very cautious and not come into contact with corona. When you think about it if you come up positive for corona, you don’t just sit in your room for 10 days. You lose an opportunity to fight and feed your family. We had to get really creative putting together camps and fighting and training hard but staying safe as well.
TBL: What about your home life. What did you do to pass the time?
TW: We spent a lot of family time. We had a lot of music we recorded. We were becoming chefs. It really just kind of gave me an opportunity to add some structure at home because I was traveling so much, I was gone so much that I was forced to sit still. I got to see what all my kids needed from me. They all needed something whether that was attention or guidance or my oldest son with some structure being recruited. All my kids needed me in a different way and I’m thankful for the pandemic slowing me down and forcing me to be at home a lot more.
TBL: How much longer do you see yourself fighting?
TW: Going to wheels fall off. They’re on there real tight with new tires and I’m good.
Woodley will fight again after this weekend, the only question is where. "If the UFC has a fight and the bag is right," he will be there. Who knows what else the celebrity or regular boxing circuit holds. Woodley has also worked as a commentator for UFC broadcasts and expects to continue doing media in addition to fighting.