Happy Homecoming: Undefeated Strikeforce welterweight Tyron Woodley interview exclusive with MMAmania.com

If and when Tyron Woodley fights for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title, you can't tell him he didn't earn it.

The undefeated former two-time All-American wrestler from Missouri has waded through a gauntlet of top Strikeforce opponents including world champion Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist Andre Galvao, All-American wrestler Nathan Coy, top Team Quest prospect Tarec Saffiedine and even former title challenger Paul Daley.

The proud Missouri native has been keeping very busy on the side, hosting the grand opening of his own satellite gym, American Top Team: Evolution in his hometown of St. Louis this past weekend.

Woodley was recently announced to be fighting fellow top prospect Jordan Mein on the main card of Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" on January 7, 2012 in the promotion's first event with the new Showtime contract. If a victory against Mein doesn't earn him a crack at Nick Diaz's vacant title, nothing will.

"T-Wood" spoke with MMAmania.com about opening up his new gym, the benefits of being able to stay home and still receive top training and what he's been doing to prepare for his next challenges in 2012 in this exclusive interview.

See for yourself

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is crazy for you with your gym opening. You've been doing interviews with everyone talking about it, your weekend is jam-packed with events. How are you feeling right now?

Tyron Woodley: I'm actually really hungry. (laughs) I'm trying to go and grab some food and it's not any more of a headache than I expected. Some things are out of your control. You've just got to have the wisdom to roll with what you can and not fluster yourself with things that are out of your control. For me, it's been a blessing man. The gym came together and I wanted to be open in October but now we're opening at the right time. We'll be putting the last finishing touches, wiping off the mirrors and everything when we open up tomorrow so we're having a great time. A lot of people that support me are coming into town. There's a lot of good guys coming in, Randy Couture, Thiago Alves, Din Thomas, Marcus Brimage so it's been a lot of support.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had the "Grand Opening Celebration" on Saturday. Can you tell me what was planned for it?

Tyron Woodley: Yeah, Saturday was used to showcase my employees, all the trainers I have there and I want them start to increase their brand as well so we're gonna display them and give some demonstrations. My Muay Thai coach wanted to do a demonstration and we'll basically display the facility, show everyone why it's important for American Top Team to be here. A lot of people don't know what American Top Team is so we've got to educate them, bring them up to speed, gotta show them our fighteres, show them our trainers. They all see us fighting on TV and winning world titles but I want to show them that everyone is qualified.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is it a distraction at all? You have a fight coming up in a few weeks and you had to worry about this gym opening and everything. Have you still been able to get all the proper training that you need?

Tyron Woodley: Oh yeah. My wife has been amazing through the process. She's really been holding the fort while I'm doing this. I'm bringing in Thiago Alves, Marcus Brimage and also we'll be getting Jason High so it's great. With all the people coming up, I've been getting some really good training. Several of my coaches flew in from LA so for a change, I don't have to go there.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah and that has to be important to finally have a camp at home instead of spending all that time traveling and driving around, to basically have it in your backyard.

Tyron Woodley: Oh definitely, man. The holidays are coming up and normally I spend four days just traveling alone which is four days I could have been training here. My personal trainer works with me, gives me organic meals delivered to my house so I don't have to worry about how my family's doing or anything like that. I can focus on training and doing what I need to do. In LA, I go out there sometimes and there's crazy traffic in LA. I get stuck in traffic, waiting and then I have go turn around and go get stuck heading to another training place again. I think everything happens for a reason and we've got big things happening in St. Louis.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of big things happening, they had the big Strikeforce-Showtime announcement that they've got a deal going through 2014. What does that mean to you especially because Dana White said he wants to get involved and build Strikeforce up like the UFC?

Tyron Woodley: For me, personally, it makes things easier. I've just gotta keep focusing on what I'm doing, focusing on winning a world title, get to the big show at a major platform and then everything at that point is gonna solve itself. I can't focus on, "Hey, I'm gonna leave Strikeforce to go the UFC," because Strikeforce gave me an opportunity when nobody else would and they believed in me. They matched me up with opponents that were good fights for me and not just easy wins. Good fights at that point in my career and they've really done a great job of letting the fans get a chance to know me so all-in-all, I've had a great experience with Showtime and Strikeforce. Obviously I want to be the number one guy in the world so basically, the UFC will be my future but right now, I'm focusing on that Strikeforce belt.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've got Jordan Mein coming up on January 7th, and according to my rankings, I'm the official ranking guy but I have you and Jordan as the top two ranked Strikeforce welterweights right now. Are you surprised that this fight isn't for the title or do you just Strikeforce didn't feel Jordan had that name value to make it a title fight yet?

Tyron Woodley: I think there's a couple other guys that might have been there a little bit longer. Jordan has a lot of wins and he's coming off a great performance against Cyborg. I think he's a tough guy and that's why the bout interests me because I get no backlash for this fight. You hear people say, "Oh, he doesn't face tough guys, just easy fights," but I haven't had an easy fight. I wish I could get an easy fight. I fought Nathan Coy, Marcos Galvao the best grappler on the planet right now and I fought Tarec Saffiedine and then I fought Paul Daley. Several of those fights could have been a title fight so I haven't gotten involved with the title. This kid hasn't gotten the recognition in the US yet but he's definitely worthy of it. He's definitely qualified and he's a tough, dangerous person. He trains hard and I'm pretty sure he would love to switch spots with me but I won't let it go down like that.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I don't want you to look past him or anything but who would be in a title fight, say you win or lose. Who would be the other guy on the other side? It seems to me like they've got Bobby Voelker, some other guys building up but you and Jordan are the top two guys right now. Who else do you see up there in that top realm at welterweight in Strikeforce right now?

Tyron Woodley: You mean like me and Paul Daley were the top two guys? In about 6-8 months, I'm sure people will say me and Tarec Saffiedine are the top two guys. I don't know what that means anymore. I could see that this kid is the toughest kid and I said I think Tarec is one of the tougher welterweights. I think he's a tougher match than Daley, a tougher match than Diaz but I beat him and then he goes and creams, he steamrolls Scott Smith and now all of a sudden he's this amazing striker who lost every single round when he fought me so for me, I've got to do it the old fashioned way. I've got to do it the hard way. I've got to prove to everyone by winning, beating big, tough guys consistently and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. You can be the best easy, knocking off somebody that's not that great to get the belt but if you have to work for it, you have to wait for it, you have to be patient, I think overall, all in all, it's gonna be worth it at the very end.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're bringing in Thiago Alves to help you prepare for this fight, Jordan Mein used some ferocious elbows to finish off Evangelista Santos in his last fight so do you feel like Thiago Alves and his awesome Muay Thai skills will really help you prepare for him?

Tyron Woodley: Oh yeah, I think Thiago Alves is like 3-4 classes above Jordan Mein. I think he's in a position where he's probably the best striker in the welterweight division. He's just a superior striker with devastating power. He punches harder than Paul Daley, can take punch, give a punch, stands in the pocket and moves around well. All in all, I think he's the better striker and what I think is gonna happen is I get a chance to spar with one of the best guys. I think Cyborg got taken out because he was fatigued. He probably could have hit Cyborg 12 times in a row to finish the fight just because he was so fatigued. He was almost to the point where he has to take guys out in the first round.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You said you're bringing in Jason High and he's the last guy to actually beat Jordan Mein. He beat him in 2010 I believe so have you actually had a chance to work with Jason and pinpoint some of the weaknesses you feel Jordan has?

Tyron Woodley: Yeah, I work with Jason High quite a bit. I used to wrestle him in high school. A lot of people don't know he's from Missouri because he's been in California so long but I train with him, Antonio McKee is a great training partner. He's very smart and always in amazing shape. People think, "Oh, he's just a wrestler," but no, he takes people down over and over and over again and he throws counters. It's such a blessing to me because he beat this guy. I can formulate a good strategy. He can tell a few things Mein wasn't looking forward to and he found out during the fight.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel Jordan Mein is vulnerable to your elite wrestling skills?

Tyron Woodley: I definitely think he will be vulnerable to the wrestling but more importantly, I think he'll be vulnerable to the power. I think he's a young kid, probably got a few more growth spurts left in him and I think he just hasn't developed yet. He's gonna fight a grown man and that's what I have to go in, take that chip off my shoulder and just try to take it to the young buck.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had a terrific 2011 but you have had some fights where you've slowed down at the end, usually late in the third round. Have you pinpointed what it is that kind of goes wrong there at the end of a fight? Is it a case of just going a little too hard too fast?

Tyron Woodley: I always go out the same way. I usually start out hard, all over the place in the first rounds especially. That's the thing, how many guys lose the first round and then have to try to catch up losing the round. I always try to burst out, get a lead in the first round and then feel it out in the second round and then after that, I just go from the heart. For me, when I fought Paul Daley, he was definitely strong and the thing was, I was holding on too long. The last time when you hold on, breathing slowly and throwing and breathing and moving, you've got all those muscles and oxygen needs to move around. I've been doing more cardio, roadwork and putting myself out there more respiratory-wise. I've been doing a lot of sprints up hills, flipping tires and doing a lot of combat training that definitely has me ready for those explosive 30 second bursts but I definitely need five round conditioning.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Going forward, what are you expecting to happen in 2012? What would be some of your MMA New Year's Resolutions?

Tyron Woodley: I wanna fight more this year. I've been traditionally fighting twice a year and even the champions like Jon Jones and Dominick Cruz, these guys are fighting 3-4 times a year and they're champions. I think it's not a stretch to fight four times a year. I would love to do that and it would keep me active. All in all, that's what it would take for me to take the belt and keep the belt.

Tyron would like everyone to check out his new gym, American Top Team Evolution in St. Louis if you're in reach of a drive or a plane flight. You can find his gym at 9751 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, MO. 63119. He's like thank his sponsors Clinch Gear, Xtreme Couture Management, American Top Team, Metobolic Meals, everyone who's put him in a position to be on top. You can follow his gym on twitter @ATTEvolution or you can follow him @TWooodley.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

Will the grand opening of his new gym be a distraction in the lead-up to his huge welterweight showdown with Jordan Mein? Will Tyron Woodley finally become Strikeforce welterweight champion in 2012?

Sound off!

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