ByDan Shapiro, writer at
Senior Editor, Champions
Dan Shapiro

Leading up to his UFC 205 co-main event against Stephen Thompson, UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley unveiled a surprise training partner.

Huddled inside Milwaukee’s Roufusport MMA Academy, Woodley revealed he was working alongside UFC wunderkind Sage Northcutt, enlisting the combat sports prodigy to offer unique looks into Thompson’s sport karate attacks. The method worked.

Nullifying Thompson’s vast kicking arsenal, Woodley would go on to retain his welterweight strap on the strength of a majority draw. And without a clear-cut winner, Woodley and Thompson have been paired for a second time, set to headline .

However, following November’s event at , Woodley divulged that Northcutt was not his only sparring partner for the “Wonderboy” bout. Kickboxing and karate champion Raymond Daniels, a one-time Thompson foe, helped Woodley prepare for his first title defense, offering insight into the unique stances and kicks he would face at .

“I didn’t reveal Raymond Daniels the last time, but I also worked with him,” comments Woodley. “I got a couple other hidden secrets … training partners that are well known in that arena.”

Sparring with Daniels, Northcutt, and a slew of sport karate veterans, Woodley is adamant that his rematch with the “Wonderboy” will be a far different bout than their first encounter, which went the entire 25 minutes. Preparing to deliver a Performance of the Night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Woodley’s confidence is boosted by his training partners, several of whom have seen Thompson in kickboxing and karate competition.

“Those guys all come to the same consensus: Stevie ‘Wonderboy’ wasn’t the best in that art, he wasn’t best in the point fighting art,” claims Woodley. “His level of competition and skillset is comparable to the guys I’m training with, and they would say he’s not on my level. They would openly say it with no hesitation.”

In addition to sessions with Daniels and Northcutt, Woodley continues to train with boxing coach Eric Brown at Freddie Roach’s famed Wild Card gym in Hollywood. The combination of Brown, Duke Roufus, and head coach Din Thomas provided Woodley with all the preparation he would need during the first bout with Thompson, although there was one surprise he did not expect from the challenger.

“I knew what he would bring to the table ... the only thing that did surprise me, along with the rest of the world, is his ability to be durable and take damage and to survive nearly being TKOd,” states Woodley. “No one had ever hurt him, I don’t think he had ever been knocked down before in the Octagon so we didn’t really get a chance to see if he was tough, if he could take a punch if he could survive an onslaught of punches like that.”

Having already clocked 25 minutes of cage time against Thompson, Woodley likes his chances for a finish this time around. And while many questioned Woodley’s ability to go the distance on account of his tremendous muscle mass, the UFC champion does see a silver lining to their first bout, which was name the UFC 205 Fight of the Night.

“The only good thing about that fight as far as the me going the distance and it not being a finish, and even the draw, is that a lot of people, unrightfully so, [gave] me a hard time about the way that I was built, the way that I was born to be honest,” offers Woodley. “They didn’t think that I could go the five. They didn’t think that I had the endurance, or that these muscles would gas out, and I was just glad to put that to a myth because it’s not factual, it’s not science, you just have to be mindful of doing this how your body is ... it’s good that the fans got a chance to see that.”

Woodley, who has openly expressed his desire to add his name to the UFC welterweight record books alongside greats like Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes, is already motivated to close the Thompson chapter of his career. But the “Wonderboy” has added additional fuel to the champion’s quest, based on a rivalry that began leading up to their first encounter.

“Leading up to the fight I felt like he thought he was a better human than I was, not a better fighter … I thought he should have been a little more reserved and act like a challenger,” states Woodley. “When I was fighting against Robbie [Lawler], or wanted to fight the champion, I didn’t parade around like I was the champion ... he’s promoted more than I am and I’m the champion … once again I’m the underdog against Wonderboy, and I was the only one that did any type of damage in that fight.”

It remains unclear if Thompson was merely goading Woodley for the sake of sport and to sell their first fight to the public. However, the already simmering feud is nearing a boil, and Woodley can’t refrain from rattling off his advantages going into their March 4 rematch.

“He can’t take me down he’s not gonna put me in any submission trouble,” adds Woodley. “He’s not gonna probably be able to get off the ground if I put him down there or off the cage if I put him up against it, so I just think that I have the upside on being able to be more prepared for him. I think he just, he’s in a bad spot.”

UFC 209 Fight Card (as of 1/17/16):

  • Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
  • Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt
  • Darren Elkins vs. Mirsad Bektic
  • Todd Duffee vs. Mark Godbeer
  • Igor Pokrajac vs. Ed Herman
  • Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur


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