Back in July 2016, there was an interesting media day before UFC 201 in Atlanta.
Tyron Woodley was set to challenge Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title, and the UFC arranged an opportunity for reporters to speak to both. Rather than really answer any questions, however, Woodley responded to nearly every query with the exact same words: "I'm the best welterweight in the world."
At the time, Woodley wasn't thrilled with what he perceived to be a lack of promotion for the event. He had also dealt with some negativity from fans, who had accused him of refusing to take fights while he waited for his title shot (something Woodley vehemently denied doing).
Basically, in a nutshell, Woodley had an unmistakable chip on his shoulder when he fought Lawler for the title.
More than two years later, that chip is still there. Woodley's relationship with the UFC, specifically with its outspoken president Dana White, has been rocky at best. There's a strong argument that he's still widely misunderstood by the sport's fan base, although that may turn after a sensational win against Darren Till at UFC 228.
Woodley, 36, is in the midst of one of the greatest runs in UFC welterweight history. Since the start of 2015, he has defeated Kelvin Gastelum (who will soon fight for the UFC's middleweight championship), Lawler (who was in the midst of his own special run), Stephen Thompson (one of the best strikers in MMA history), Demian Maia (arguably the best grappler in MMA history) and Till (a previously unbeaten force, who is 10 years younger).
And yet, in his postfight interview in the cage on Saturday, a stoic Woodley refused to even suggest what may be next for him, saying any time he brings up an opponent, he's criticized for it. He may not have even cracked a grin had his longtime coach Din Thomas not awarded him his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in the Octagon.
In a way, Woodley has already come full circle, even as his title reign continues. He's been fearlessly outspoken at times, referring to himself as the "worst-treated champion" in UFC history. He demanded a public apology from White after the promoter criticized his performance at UFC 214 last year in a fight in which Woodley tore his labrum. He told ESPN prior to Saturday that he felt an obligation, after the great Muhammad Ali's death in 2016, to speak up and advocate for change from the platform he holds.
But in the buildup and aftermath of UFC 228, Woodley was noticeably quiet. Calm, to the point of appearing almost uninterested. It was reminiscent of 2016, when an agitated Woodley simply repeated, over and over, "I'm the best welterweight in the world" to nearly every question directed at him.
At this point, it's become very difficult for even the most dedicated haters to disagree.