Tyron Woodley, actor and professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, is taking his talents to Houston, Texas, where he'll compete at the UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) event on Oct. 3, 2015. Waiting for him is the man he long campaigned to battle against, former collegiate wrestling rival of "The Chosen One" and one-time 170-pound titleholder Johny Hendricks.
Before the 33-year-old slugger goes toe-to-toe with Hendricks inside Toyota Center, he will see his first major acting role come to life and hit the big screen when the biopic "Straight Outta Compton" is released in theaters today (Fri., Aug. 14, 2015) across the nation.
Woodley, who once appeared on the now-defunct MTV reality show "Bully Beatdown" and is also set to star in "Kickboxer: Vengeance," plays Da Lench Mob's "T-Bone" in the film directed by F. Gary Gray. It is a befitting role for the former Strikeforce welterweight title challenger, who used to "sneak" listening to the groundbreaking album by legendary hip-hop collective N.W.A.
"I remember getting my butt whupped for listening to that," Woodley told UFC.com's Thomas Gerbasi. "My dad was a pastor, and I was sneaking it. Back in the day we used to dub a tape and cover up the part on top so we could actually record over it. I had it labeled as something that it wasn’t, and man, I got the skin torn off me for listening to it."
Though Woodley didn't grow up on the west coast, N.W.A. hits like "F**k tha Police" and "Express Yourself" still hit home because "they put themselves in a better position." Their message of police brutality in Los Angeles, California, among other things, resonates even more so now with "T-Wood."
The Missouri native grew up in the city of Ferguson, which has been embroiled in something like a civil war over the last 12 months, following the controversial shooting death of an African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer Darren Wilson last August.
Hip-hop may not be as volatile of a foreground to present such topics, as was the case with the era and platform that N.W.A. had, but it is alive and well. The immense success of Grammy award-winning Compton native Kendrick Lamar has helped keep west coast rap in a good, healthy state, and Woodley agrees.
"There are still artists who are rapping about something," said Woodley. "B.O.B., Kendrick Lamar, they're guys who are lyrically talented artists with a conscience. I also like Common's style, and I think that you should use your gift of being very creative lyrically to inspire people and to tell a story, whether it's fiction, non-fiction, or if you're just talking about what's going on in the club scene. You should really give people an escape and that's what music is for. It's so they can relate or escape."
Just as Woodley has ascended UFC's welterweight ladder, he has done the same with Hollywood, earning his first major acting role after completing stunts on the set of 2013 action film "Olympus Has Fallen."
Woodley has heard from prominent rappers such as Wiz Khalifa and received good vibes from those who have seen private screenings of "Straight Outta Compton," telling the former that he "got a lot of camera time in the movie."
"I'm excited about it," Woodley exclaimed. "It was a great opportunity for me to be showcased in a historical film, so I'm pumped about it. And it's important because somebody had to have the balls to make this film."
Is he headed down the same path in Hollywood that women's bantamweight ruler Ronda Rousey has paved for herself? That remains to be seen.
One thing that is for certain is we have a 170-pound title eliminator on our hands in the co-main event of UFC 192. Woodley carries a 5-2 record with him since joining the promotion in Feb. 2013. Four of those five victories were finishes (one via injury) over the likes of Jay Hieron, Josh Koscheck, and Dong Hyun Kim.
However, it's a particular loss that stuck with him, which in turn fueled a new desire and subsequent run up the welterweight ranks.
"I changed my mindset over the last few months on the title picture and the fights," admitted Woodley. "I'm gonna be one of the best guys in the world for a long time and I'm gonna fight for the title and be a champion, and I have to get myself to a point where I'm okay fighting the best and beating the best and doing that and not focusing so far down the road.
I did that with Rory (MacDonald) – I was focusing so far ahead, saying this is it, I’m about to beat this guy and get my shot, and then I got the rug snatched from underneath me."
Hendricks, an opponent of Woodley's during their collegiate wrestling days at Oklahoma State and Missouri, is no slouch. "Bigg Rigg's" last two UFC losses have come in title fights against Georges St-Pierre and Robbie Lawler.
The winner will undoubtedly receive a coveted shot at the winner of the upcoming Lawler vs. Carlos Condit championship showdown at UFC 193.
For the latest UFC 192: "Cormier vs. Gustafsson" fight card and rumors click here.