The Underappreciation Of Tyron Woodley
By James Lee
As Tyron Woodley prepares to headline the UFC’s event in Las Vegas on Saturday, a cloud encompasses his fighting mantra. One that highlights him as the sport’s most underappreciated fighter who does not translate to wider success.
Even during his three-year reign as welterweight champion, he found little appreciation from those who enamoured the sport he reigned in. It was almost as if the loss to Kamaru Usman was desired for, even from those within the promotion. When his time came to involuntarily relinquish the title, fans were ready to do away with his status in the sport.
Perhaps his self-acclaimed requirements and desires frustrated fans, as desperation in them wanting him to lose expanding towards the end of his run. Crucially though, his championship reign proves skill is not the signifying factor that intrigues fans to the sport.
Although research has pinned increased sensitivity towards inflicting physical harm and fan enjoyment being mainly through technique, it is categorically certain that outside-the-octagon factors are vital in popularity growth.
If skill was the most important factor, Woodley would be one of the sport’s most-watched and the anticipation surrounding his return would be large. Instead, few are talking about his fight with Gilbert Burns and the masses seem to be favouring the Brazilian, if anybody.
In terms of skill, Woodley may be the definition of the most successful type of fighter in UFC history. A strong wrestler with punching power. It could be said he is a better version of the stereotype fighters which the sport was founded and maintained on. Although similar, he has proved his striking is far superior than those prior.
His performances against Stephen Thompson and Darren Till saw him beat two of the sport’s best through skill and athleticism, with his power the perfect asset and leveller. His knockout of Robbie Lawler was most impressive though. Lawler’s run and status at the time after his fights with Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit came to a crashing end after a few minutes against Woodley.
Maybe his performance against Usman was a blip and a championship future is looming, but he will be fighting more than Gilbert Burns on Saturday. Most importantly, he will be contesting for appreciation. Appreciation from the fanbase, organisation and wider sporting culture that is a must if he wants to achieve the praise he deserves.