Woodley: Fan Disrespect is Race-Driven
Though Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson is not one to engage in trash talk, he and welterweight champion Tyron Woodley sat down for a rather contentious interview with ESPN ahead of their UFC 209 rematch. Woodley touched on the lack of respect he’s received as a champion, and he says that his race plays a large factor.
"Some people would say that this is a racist sport," Woodley said. "As soon as I bring up race, I’m race-baiting. But I can point out clear facts where no other champion has been treated like me."
Asked if he believes that Thompson receives different treatment from fans and the UFC because of his skin color, Woodley pointed to the fan reaction he received online for playing hardball when it came to agreeing to the rematch.
"He sure has some fans that cross the line quite a bit. Which isn’t his fault, I’m not saying it’s him. I do respect him, I have been friendly and cordial with him…but let’s put the cards on the table. If I was a different complexion I think people and fans would treat me a different way."
Woodley then pointed to two other African-American fighters, Demetrious Johnson and Jon Jones, as support for his argument. Johnson is the consensus #1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, but he hasn’t received the media attention that some other elite fighters have received. Jones, who has been unbeatable in the cage, has been sidelined by a multitude of outside-the-cage mistakes and Woodley says that fans were quick to throw him under the bus.
Thompson, for his part, disagreed.
The animosity between these two typically mild-mannered fighters started when Thompson took to social media to challenge Woodley to accept the rematch. The two fought to a draw at UFC 205 in November, though Woodley believes he deserved to have won and he has been looking at other options rather than running it back with Thompson.
It’s a moot argument now, as the two will indeed fight again in March. A winner will be decided once and for all at UFC 209 in Las Vegas.