LAS VEGAS — Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley fought to grueling five round majority decision to beat Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 209, which brought an end to a rivalry that stretches back as far as July 2016.
Woodley and Thompson have been ranked as champion and challenger ever since his title fight win over Robbie Lawler. The first fight ended in a draw, which led to the rematch on Saturday night that saw Woodley edge Thompson over 25 minutes.
Now Woodley can move forward in his career as champion but his victory also begs the obvious question about who or what comes next?
“If I say I want to fight someone then the whole internet goes crazy so what I’m going to do is I’m going to go vacation,” Woodley explained at the post-fight press conference. “I’m shooting a movie next week. Taking my family to Puerto Rico after that and I’ll let me managers and Dana White figure that out.”
Following his win over Lawler last year, Woodley immediately asked for matchups against either Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz, which for some reason earned him a lot of backlash and criticism for looking for fights against competitors who weren’t ranked No. 1 in his own division.
The way it played out, Thompson ultimately got two shots at Woodley but came up short each time so now the champion can move forward, but he’s not revisiting the past by asking for any specific opponent.
“If I call somebody out it’s a problem. We all know that,” Woodley said. “But we see my peers that not only call out but get fights that are kind of maybe unorthodox matchups and it’s never an issue, it’s never a problem.
“So, therefore, I’m just going to continue to get the contracts, sign the contracts, get the ‘W’ and at the end of the day as long as I keep fighting and winning then you’re not going to be able to deny me what I’m deserved.”
The most logical opponent for Woodley would have likely been Demian Maia, who is currently riding a six-fight win streak in the division, including victories over top 15 opponents such as Carlos Condit, Matt Brown and Neil Magny.
Just days before UFC 209, Maia was matched up against Jorge Masvidal in May, which could result in the winner facing Woodley later this year, but the bout hasn’t been deemed a No. 1 contender’s fight just yet.
Woodley will ultimately face whoever the UFC puts in front of him whether that’s Maia, Masvidal or somebody else.
“Lowkey, I kind of feel bad for Demian Maia because I feel like he should have been fighting me tonight and he has to fight Jorge [Masvidal]. Jorge is a tough matchup for him,” Woodley said. “They couldn’t have matched him up any better as far as style matchups. It’s very tough to take him down.”
If Masvidal beats Maia, he would make a very compelling case for a title shot of his own, which would once again put Woodley in a precarious position.
Masvidal and Woodley are both members of American Top Team, although they don’t typically train together but do come from the same group of fighters primarily working out of South Florida.
Woodley already faced that situation previously when he fought Lawler and while it’s not ideal to fight a friend and teammate, he’s not going to stop Masvidal from having the chance to live his dream to fight for UFC gold.
“I’m a champion and this is a sport and we have to do what we have to do,” Woodley said. “I’m not in the business of trying to deny people their opportunities to try and feed their families and be a world champion. So I’ll watch that fight and see how it goes and we’ll go from there.”