Tyron Woodley and MiddleEasy.com were born into the MMA world only mere months apart. T-Wood made his pro debut in February of 2009 and we wrote our first article ever in April. Since then Woodley has moved through the welterweight ranks at a blistering speed as we’ve looked on impressed. Now the Missouri wrestler is digging into his St Louis roots and will be opening the latest American Top Team gym this weekend: ATT Evolution. We got the chance to speak to the new gym owner and top ranked Strikeforce welterweight and he tells us all about the big fish/small pond theory and how he plans to run the welterweight division in Strikeforce and out. And yes, UFC fighters aren’t making eye contact with him.
You did it, you finally opened your gym. How do you feel? It’s been a long journey man, it feels good. The name of the gym is ATT Evolution and it takes from the tradition of American Top Team and the things they do so well but place a lot of our spin on it and we will take MMA training even further.
Have you wanted a gym of your own for a long time? I knew for a while that it was something I wanted to do, and with all the people in my life that helped me out and made it possible for me to train all the and I’ve had a lot of people show me the behind the scenes and really helped me and opened my eyes…Now I want to do that and help out these fighters that need it.
So you will be offering training down their that has pretty much been previously unavailable? Yeah, oh yeah. I used to train in St Louis but then it got to the point where I was having to go out of town for a lot of my training and I was only doing strength and conditioning, maybe boxing around here. But now we can offer everything, the gym has four boxing rings, we have a BJJ area a wrestling area, cardio anything anyone needs, myself or my members need…I have a full sized training facility now to prepare for it.
Nice, so you will be spending more training camps at home I presume? Yeah it’s nice. I’m going to get some favors returned, it’s gonna be nice. The last five years I’ve been going out and helping guys like Thiago Alves and Yves Edwards and various guys and Team Quest and so now the favors are getting returned. Din Thomas and Thiago are getting in Monday. Cormier and Jason High will be in town to help me with Jordan Mein. It’s just been incredible the response and how many people are behind this project. It’s great, great workers, everything is great. Everyone is seeing the big picture and we are all striving towards the same goal.
You’ve said for a while now that your focus is on being a complete fighter and not just a wrestler, we saw some of that against Paul Daley, but is the opening of the gym effecting your development? Do you plan on standing with Jordan Mein? Well he’s a Mixed Martial Artist and he does everything well. I think that him and his angles and it being an MMA fight I think he’s gonna stand and I think I will stand but actually think he’s going to try to take me down. I don’t think you’ll see the quote unquote striker Vs, wrestler thing going on. I think he’s a more complete MMA fighter than that so I will do what I do best and I will show the world why i should be fighting for the title.
Anything cool in the works for your next Clinch Gear tee? Of course! Clinch Gear has always been there for me. Since I was a nobody on the undercards. They were sponsoring me then when it wasn’t even televised. You look at my gym now though and it’s covered in Clinch Gear. So yeah I will be definitely wearing a Clinch Gear shirt and I’m glad that you said that so I can call them about a walkout shirt design. But Eric and Dan Henderson have really helped me in every facet of the game. They have to be if not the number one brand they have to be in the top two performance brands in the sport. The quality speaks for itself, and at any event you will always see some Clinch Gear.
That and their shirts just look cool. Yeah they do a real good job with the design. They have multiple graphic designers that put a lot of thought into their work. They have a lot of guys that will be thinking of ideas and really just bouncing stuff around,. I don’t know how they do it.
We just found out Strikeforce will continue to live, do you think that will lead to more fights for you? Yeah I think so man, I think they are planning for me to fight maybe after January in March or April. For me, it’s not the fact that I can’t fight it’s just that they shuffle guys to try to keep them busy and making sure everyone gets fights. You know, with limited means and funds. Now that we have the machine behind us in Zuffa I think that will help a lot. All of these fighters that came up through Strikeforce like King Mo and myself and Cormier, maybe we can get some star power behind it. Now they can put some marketing behind of our guys.
Hypothetical question: if you moved to the UFC where do you think you would be in the mix? I should land in the top 5. I think I’m a top 10 fighter right now. Guys like Jordan Mein and Tarec and obviously Andre Galvao was better in Jiu Jitsu. So I think the guys I’ve fought are game opponents. I’m on the cusp right now and basically I think a win over this guy then a title will put me in the top ten when I go over there. I have no interest in working my way up from the bottom. I did that for three years in Strikeforce so now I want to fight the Jake Shields and Nick Diaz and Carlos Condits. Those are the guys I want to fight. Some of the guys in the top 20 aren’t even that tough or not a great style matchup. I’m gonna put it on the line and go out there to get at the GSP’s.
Speaking of style matchups, you hold the wrestling Kryptonite for a lot of people., including Nick Diaz. Do you think he jumped ship at the right time? Do you think he ducked you a bit? Nah. I think he made a good choice in his career, obviously financially and he had the belt. He has to prove it again against GSP…I’ve never seen the kid duck anybody and he’s a pure fighter but you know what? It’s not that great of a style matchup. I’m sure he would be down for the fight and go out there and give the fans what they want. I think it’s a good matchup for me and if it happens in the future do I think I could beat him? Yeah. Easy fight? No. I think overall I just have to take what God has for me and get through Mein and then I will sit down and think about the title.
So Jorge Masvidal Vs. Gilbert Melendez, what is your official prediction? I want Masvidal to win man, I want him to win in the worst way. Whenever I’m on the couch and I’m watching with my wife she hates it because I’m always leaning around on the couch. Everyone knows he’s a funny dude and charismatic but man that guy busts his butt working as hard as he does. I’ve trained with him and I know. Out of all the American Top Team fighters, all sixty some fighters, he’s the one who says ‘hey, I want more rounds’ or ‘lets do more sprints’. He is always pushing. When I was driving out to Coconut Creek I saw the work he puts in with pro boxers and strength and conditioning coaches. I want to see that pay off with him. I’m a fan of Gilbert and he’s a great fighter but Jorge goes for broke every time. I mean all those guys at the Cesar Gracie camp don’t even have to really use that Jiu Jitsu which they are known for. Those guys are just a different breed. It’s gonna be good. We are actually showing the fight, December 17th at the gym here in St Louis. Having a viewing party at ATT Evolution, so it should b a great time in support of a teammate of mine Jorge Masvidal.
What do you think about Masvidal’s addiction to Call of Duty and cheeseburger eating? That’s hilarious, I didn’t know you guys knew about that. I think he’s with Dolce now so I’m positive he’s not eating cheeseburgers anymore haha.
What would be better in your opinion: being in the deep UFC roster with possibly being lost in the mix or being one of the faces of Strikeforce?
Oh I’m positive I wouldn’t be lost in the mix in the UFC. I’ve been backstage and many locker rooms and I wont say any names but I’ve been there and UFC welterweights won’t look me in the eye
. That doesn’t bother me. They know who I am and I’m not saying that I’m the man and you should know about me, but I don’t think I would get lost in the shuffle over there. I’ve been in Strikeforce since 09 and it’s been a long journey but my goal was to be Strikeforce champion. I feel like we should be finishers not only in the cage but in everything we do in our life. I’m right on the cusp of that. Right now anyway, that isn’t an option so I’m gonna get my belt. After that it will work itself out. Look how Shields and Diaz went over. They went right to the top five because they went over with a belt. So it will only help my cause to have some hardware in the future. Strikeforce is a good organization and I’m glad they are going to be around. I don’t like to talk too much about the UFC and all that because I’m with Strikeforce and they are promoting me and they market me and they tell my story as a fighter. As long as my contract says Strikeforce I’m Strikeforce.If anyone wants to check me out on Twitter I’m @Twooodley
or check out ATTEvolution.com. Check us out December 17th for the fights and then our grand opening is on December 19th capping it off with Randy Couture, Yves Edwards, Din Thomas, Thiago Alves and Mike Chandler so come check it out.