The champion of the world is from Ferguson


Tyron Woodley was born and raised in Ferguson. Yes, that Ferguson.

He graduated from McCluer High School.

Woodley is a former two-time All-American wrestler and Mizzou graduate.

He and his wife, Averi, have four beautiful children and they own and operate ATT Evolution, a fitness and performance center in St. Louis County.

Woodley couldn’t be more “St. Louis” if he had a wardrobe full of those t-shirts we wore in the 90s with the city’s name on them. Some of you remember. There was no team affiliation, arch or any other logo. There was just St. Louis across the chest.

That’s Tyron Woodley.

He is the reigning and defending UFC Welterweight Champion. Woodley won the title at UFC 201 in Atlanta on July 30, 2016. He knocked out Robbie Lawler in 2:12 of the first round. Even those of us who watch all of his fights and cheer him on regularly weren’t expecting that.

Woodley has a nearly lethal right hand. At welterweight, he carries heavyweight punching power. The conventional wisdom was Lawler would avoid Woodley’s right and make it a wrestling match. Given his background at Mizzou, Woodley had more than a good chance of winning.

Conventional wisdom isn’t always followed. Lawler worried more about Woodley’s wrestling than the legal dynamite in his right hand and got blown up. If you haven’t seen the fight’s ending, think about Deebo at the end of Friday. That’s how hard Woodley hit Lawler.

Woodley followed up his title victory with two hard battles against top contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Their first fight ended in a draw, but Woodley came back to win by majority decision in March.

This Saturday, he puts his welterweight crown on the line for the third time as he takes on Brazilian challenger Demian Maia. If he wins, Woodley will have held his championship for a full calendar year, which is no small feat given that the Maia fight will be his fourth in this timeframe.

When boxing legend Floyd Mayweather takes on UFC star Conor McGregor this August, it will be Mayweather’s fourth fight since 2014. UFC fighters tend to be more active than boxers and also assume a greater risk in the octagon. A fighter can get knocked out, choked out, submitted or lose by decision.

Woodley has been able to keep his hands up and his limbs intact, though. Along with his Mizzou degree, this has afforded him other opportunities when he’s not ducking roundhouse kicks.

He trades in fight trunks for a tailored suit as a regular analyst during Fox Sports’ UFC studio broadcasts. Hollywood has come calling as well. Woodley’s résumé includes nine feature films, most notably as T-Bone in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. He’ll also star opposite Sylvester Stallone and 50 Cent in the upcoming Escape Plan 2: Hades.

Woodley’s nickname is ‘The Chosen One.’ In Star Wars lore, the chosen one is destined to bring balance to The Force. Maybe Woodley is destined to bring balance to his hometown of Ferguson and the wider St. Louis region.

Ferguson has had more than its share of pain and protest. St. Louis has been ranked number one on all the wrong lists. Right now, we are number one in the world of mixed martial arts because he is number one.

In John 1:46, Nathaniel asked Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Those of a certain belief system know the answer to that question. A similar question could be asked of Ferguson. Can anything good come from there?

Yes, it can and yes, he has.

UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley takes on Demian Maia this Saturday, July 29 live on pay-per-view from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Ca.


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