March 7, 2017

UFC 209: What Does the UFC Do With Woodley Now?

By Adam Martin

The UFC and Tyron Woodley are in a difficult situation right now. The UFC Welterweight Champion defended his belt via a controversial majority decision over Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson in the main event of UFC 209, with the judges scoring the bout 48-47, 48-47 and 47-47 in Woodley's favor. It was a terribly boring fight where neither man was aggressive for the majority of the 25 minutes they spent in the cage, though most observers did believe Thompson edged it out. For whatever reason though, the judges sided with Woodley, and he remains the champion after his first official title defense. However, it was far from an impressive performance.

So what does the UFC do with Woodley now?

The UFC is in a tough spot with Woodley, who has proven he's extremely hit-or-miss in his UFC career. When Woodley is on, he's on. When he knocked out Robbie Lawler to take the title, when he knocked out Dong Hyun Kim to start his run to the belt, and when he stopped Carlos Condit, he was on. But when he's off, like in his one-sided loss to Rory MacDonald, his snorefest against Jake Shields, or this stinker against Thompson, he's off. He's like that big slugger who either hits a home run or strikes out badly. At UFC 209, he struck out swinging with the bases loaded.

Prior to accepting the rematch with Thompson after their draw at UFC 209, Woodley had been clamoring for "money fights" against the likes of Conor McGregor and Nick Diaz, even though he didn't even have any official title defenses. The UFC denied Woodley his "money fight" and matched him up against Thompson. That led Woodley to publicly accuse the sport of being discriminatory towards him and other black champions like Demetrious Johnson and Jon Jones, which bothered a lot of fans. Woodley wondered why he doesn't have as many fans as someone in his position as a welterweight champion should. But fans have a hard time backing him when they don't know if they're going to get a Fight of the Night-type performance or a snoozer when he steps into the cage, and that makes him hard to market for the UFC.

To be fair to Woodley, Thompson is also to blame for what was a truly awful fight, and fans already had a bad taste in their mouths after Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson was cancelled the day before. That put a lot of pressure on Woodley and Thompson to go out there and perform, but they ended up not doing their job as pay-per-view headliners, and in a sport like MMA where fans hold grudges, it's going to be hard for the UFC to headline a PPV with either of them anytime soon.

For Thompson, he'll obviously have to get back in line and beat some of the other top contenders to put himself back in line for a title shot. But for Woodley, it's harder to say what the UFC will do with him next. It's going to be hard for the UFC to give him a main event in his next fight unless his opponent is McGregor or Diaz, but neither of those fighters will likely be in any sort of rush to fight Woodley knowing the financial incentive just isn't there. Instead, Woodley will likely fight the winner of UFC 211's Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal in either a co-main event or on FOX, because unless the rest of the card is completely stacked, it's going to be hard to convince fans to pay for a Woodley-headlined PPV anytime soon.

Leading into UFC 209, Woodley claimed he was the worst-treated champion in UFC history and claimed he was not promoted correctly. But ultimately it's up to the fighters to make themselves a draw and popular with the fans. The UFC gives the fighters the platform to perform on, then it's up to the fighters to put on performances that will encourage fans to buy their fights on pay-per-view. At UFC 209, Woodley did himself no favors with an uninspired, lackluster performance in a fight most fans thought he lost. The only silver lining is that the judges thought he did enough to defend his belt, and now it's up to the champ to bounce back from this and show the MMA world he can be that guy who knocked out Lawler, Kim, and Koscheck in devastating fashion, because that's the fighter fans will pay to see, not the guy who refused to engage with Thompson at UFC 209 in one of the most boring title fights in UFC history.

UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 took place March 4, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC 209 was.

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