August 10, 2016

UFC: Tyron Woodley Knows the Real Meaning of Being a "Prize-Fighter"

By Raphael Garcia

Professional sports and business frequently intersect in ways that fans may not want to respect. However, it’s important for mixed martial artists to not only know where these areas overlap, but also learn how to operate within those overlapping spaces. UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley is not only operating in those spaces, but he’s doing so in the right way and at the right time.

Moments after stopping Robbie Lawler inside of one round at UFC 201, Woodley wasted very little time before letting the world know who he wanted to face next: either Nick Diaz or Georges St. Pierre. The goal was simple: to make money. Woodley wants the “money” fights, and even as top contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson tried to goad him into accepting a fight with him during the post-fight interview, Woodley stuck to his stance that he wants the fights that are going to make him the most money.

That is a prime example of the meaning of the term “prize” in “prizefighter.” Woodley is looking to fight for the biggest purses available, because fighting, just like any other professional sports career, is short-lived at best. This is especially true in mixed martial arts, where the athletes who compete are making far less than their counterparts in other sports. Woodley’s win over Lawler earned him only $340,000, as well as his Reebok deal money and any other discretionary bonuses that were doled out by the UFC at the end of the night.

Not surprisingly, the response from fans has been widely negative. Fans don’t believe that Woodley has the “right” to pick fights, especially since many felt he didn’t deserve the title fight in the first place. But in a world where Conor McGregor can talk his way into title fights in different weight classes, it’s interesting to see fans react so negatively towards Woodley for doing the same thing, albeit in a weight class where he’s been successful and is now the reigning champion.

What’s even more interesting is that Woodley is now in the driver seat, taking UFC President Dana White for the ride. Remember, this is the same White that called out Woodley for his loss to Rory MacDonald at UFC 174 and basically said that Woodley ducked Hector Lombard. However, Woodley is now in a position of bargaining power because he has the title on his waist. While this hasn’t exactly stopped the leadership within the UFC from denigrating fighters in the past, it does boost Woodley’s position in a fashion that was outside of his grasp before that fateful night.

Whether fans, fighters, and others agree with this tactics or not, Tyron Woodley is making the right moves at the right time. As the new UFC Welterweight Champion, he’s calling the shots of what should come next in his career, with the sole purpose of making the greatest amount of money possible. In a world where athletes can be praised one moment and forgotten the next, he’s doing exactly the right thing.

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