UFC's Woodley: Beat Lawler, then shot at title

MINNEAPOLIS -- In his effort to regain the welterweight title surrendered in a lopsided loss to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in March, Tyron Woodley said he will demand an immediate title shot if he beats Robbie Lawler in the main event of UFC Fight Night on June 29 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

"I don't feel like I should have had to have a path [back to the belt]," Woodley said Thursday during his open workout at the Mall of America for his upcoming bout against Lawler, whom he defeated for the title at UFC 201 in 2016. "I feel like I should have been able to fight [for a title shot].

"The fact that I defended my belt [five times] against true No. 1 contenders -- I'm not crying over spilled milk. I know my path is going to be different. But I'm not going to fight two or three fights. I'm going to fight Robbie, and then I'm fighting for the title."

Woodley said his request for an immediate title shot follows protocol established by the UFC for other recent champs who lost their titles. He noted Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Ronda Rousey both received immediate title shots after they lost their belts.

The title picture for the UFC's welterweights, however, is more complicated than the landscape was for both Jedrzejczyk and Rousey in their respective divisions. Woodley has to wade through one of the most competitive divisions in the UFC to fulfill his goal of avenging the loss to Usman.

UFC president Dana White has said Usman will face Colby Covington in his first title defense. Jorge Masvidal will fight Ben Askren, who is coming off a controversial win over Lawler, at UFC 239 in July. Askren and Woodley, former wrestling teammates at Missouri and best friends, have repeatedly said they will not fight each other, which could delay Woodley's shot at another title.

Woodley said he didn't feel right in his fight against Usman, who was dominant in their matchup. Prior to that fight, Woodley hadn't lost since 2014 -- beating contenders such as Stephen Thompson, Kelvin Gastelum and Lawler to solidify his position as the greatest 170-pound champ in the world.

He said he has relied on Georges St-Pierre's journey to keep him motivated. St-Pierre had to win two fights and wait nearly a year to avenge his surprising loss to Matt Serra in their 2007 title bout. Woodley said he admires St-Pierre's focus during his comeback.

Focus has been a challenge for Woodley at times, he admits. Woodley is an actor, TV commentator and rapper, who released his album, "Chaos Theory," just days after he lost his title against Usman.

The former champ said he never allowed his other responsibilities to impact his training, but he admitted he could have been more selective about the use of his time outside the Octagon to rest and recover.

"I think we as a team had to be honest with ourselves and say, 'OK, are there any nights you could have went to sleep?'" Woodley said. "'Are there any times you could've put that phone down and not been on Instagram. Did you have to go to the studio that day, at that time? Was that song you recorded, was that for this album? Could I have waited on those and maybe grabbed that four hours of sleep? Could I have not argued on the phone, yelled or whatever, it stresses me out and now my sparring session was terrible?'

"Those are things I know they're going to be there, but I have to do a better job of maintaining them. At the end of the day, I just lost."

Woodley's knockout win over Lawler in 2016 remains one the highlights of his career. He said he refuses to call next month's fight a "rematch" because he finished Lawler two minutes into the first round.

"I feel like he's the one getting the rematch because of how things happened the first time," Woodley said. "I just need to fight. I just need a fight."

Woodley guarantees fireworks against Lawler. He followed the first three losses of his career, respectively, with knockouts in the fights that followed.

"Every fight is a big fight," said Lawler, who also participated in the open workout Thursday. "That was three years ago. I'm a different fighter. He's a different fighter. We're all trying to get to the same place."