The situation at the top of the UFC welterweight division is contentious, to put it mildly, but champion Tyron Woodley insists that he has not turned down an opportunity to headline UFC 233 on Jan. 26 in Anaheim, Calif., as has been insinuated.
All expectations were for Woodley to return from hand surgery to fight former interim champion Colby Covington in the next defense of his belt. When fishing through the smoke surrounding Woodley, it appears that the only real discrepancy is when Woodley would be willing to fight Covington.
Covington has chided Woodley for not committing to fight, and highly regarded contender Kamaru Usman has tried to angle his way into a fight with Covington because Woodley has not yet agreed to fight.
UFC president Dana White insinuated at press events surrounding this past weekend’s UFC 231 in Toronto that he was having difficultly in getting Woodley to commit to a fight, saying things like when is Woodley ever ready to fight anybody.
On Monday, Woodley stated outright that he has not turned a chance to fight at UFC 233, but that he wants the opportunity to get his hand medically cleared, and he wants that to be done by the doctor that performed the surgery.
“I’ve agreed to fight Colby,” Woodley countered on Monday’s edition of the Ariel Helwani MMA Show on ESPN. “I’ve agreed to fight really anybody; that’s the funny part. I just asked for a little more time before I can confirm (that my hand is ready for a fight). I’ve never said no to Jan. 26. Let’s get that on record. I’ve got a lot of strong roots in California, so it would be silly for me not to want to fight there.”
What Woodley doesn’t want, however, is to go into the fight physically unprepared and lose to Covington because he made a rash decision to provide the UFC with a headlining bout for an event in which they are desperate for a main event.
“I don’t want to be remembered as a guy that lost a fight to Colby Covington, or anybody else, because he knew he wasn’t 100 percent (healthy) or wasn’t given the chance to at least go through the physician that performed the surgery on his hand to get his clearance.”
Woodley insists that Covington’s only chance at beating him is if he does come into the fight less than prepared. That is something he’s not willing to risk. Everyone might sing his praises if he won having fought through an injury to do so, but he believes people would just as easily dismiss an injury as an excuse if he were to lose.
“If I go out there and my hand’s not ready to go and I fight Colby Covington and I come up short that night, nobody’s going to care that my hand’s hurt.”