Woodley's coach discusses Till win, feuds with White, all-time status

Tyron Woodley, following his first UFC submission win, was awarded his jiu-jitsu black belt by trainer and mentor Din Thomas at UFC 228. AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter

UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley credits much of his success to longtime head coach and retired lightweight Din Thomas, who has been in his corner since 2006.

In addition to his relationship with Woodley, Thomas is close with UFC president Dana White. So he has a balanced outlook on what's often been a strained partnership between Woodley and the promotion.

Thomas joined ESPN to speak about Woodley's title defense against Darren Till last weekend in Dallas, his relationship with the UFC and what's next for the welterweight champion.

ESPN: According to Fightmetric, Woodley did not get hit by a single significant strike in that title fight. Was this a flawless performance in your eyes?

Thomas: That's the goal. Any time I train a fighter, I say, "First and foremost, let's not take punishment. Let's figure out what he's good at and take it away." Darren Till couldn't even set himself up to hit him. He couldn't even throw a punch. So, yeah, what can you say? It doesn't get much better than that.

Tyron has a right hand these guys have to respect. There's also something about when you get in front of him, his swag and his body language is always going to keep you honest. Between the swag, body language, his right hand and controlling the angles, you just end up standing in front of him thinking, "Oh no, I can't find him. He's right here, but I can't find him."

ESPN: Woodley's reaction to winning the fight was somewhat subdued. What did you think about his reaction?

Thomas: This is something we've been talking about working on for a couple years. Since he became champion, he thought it was going to be different. At the end of the day, he really thought it was going to be different. You become champion, best in the world, and you think you're going to get this adulation from the community and the world -- and for him, it seemed to get worse. It really frustrated him. He thought everybody was going to appreciate him, and it was like, people hated him.

He's realized that being frustrated and sending that type of energy back wasn't helping. So we've said, 'Let's just focus on what we're here for and that's winning." We can't afford to lose, because we know what people are saying now. Imagine if we lost. So let's not waste energy on complaining and just get the job done.


ESPN: Do you feel like this was a breakthrough fight for Woodley though, in terms of earning fans' respect?

Thomas: I think the breakthrough actually happened at the press conference in Los Angeles in August, when Tyron came out and didn't complain, and said he didn't care if Darren Till missed weight, he would fight him anyway. I think that was the initiation of this entire turnaround of his image, because people would normally expect him to say, "I'm not fighting him if he misses weight." When Tyron said he would fight him regardless, I think people started to say, "Let's give him a chance."

ESPN: Many observers have noticed Dana White did not attend the press conference after Woodley's win. What do you make of that and what can you tell us about their relationship now?

Thomas: Everybody is coming down on Dana, trying to say he was upset. I will say this, when Dana came into the cage, he called my name and gave me a nod like, "Good job." That's all I can say about Dana. He didn't have to do that.

They're just so similar. I think if they had the same background and upbringing, they would love each other because they have similar personalities. But the thing is, they grew up different. Tyron grew up one way, Dana grew up another way -- and they were kind of opposite. They're both so stubborn.

Even when it comes to the fight game, Dana loves fighters that will just go out there and be reckless. That's his personality. Dana is like that. The stuff we do on the show ["Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight"] is reckless. Tyron is not that way. Tyron is cautious and says he doesn't want to put himself in harm's way for anybody else, if he can do it another way. They're not willing to see each other's point of view on that. Dana is never going to go, 'Maybe Tyron is right, his health is important to him.' And Tyron is never going to say, 'Maybe Dana is right, I need to take more chances and do something for the fans."

ESPN: With Woodley entering the "greatest welterweight of all time" conversation, do you think there's a chance Georges St-Pierre would face him?

Thomas: We stopped talking about Georges a long time ago. That stopped coming into the equation a year ago, because I just don't think Georges will ever take that fight. Especially after what he saw this weekend, Georges will never take that fight. If Georges ever wants to do it, he needs to get it now. If Tyron goes off and beats Coby Covington and Kamaru Usman, then I think Tyron does surpass Georges. So if Georges wants it, he needs to do it now, but I don't think he wants it.

ESPN: At this point, how do you compare Woodley's title run and reign to others historically?

Thomas: I think his run has been better than anyone's, based on competition. As far as level of difficulty, his has been much tougher than any other welterweight. I truly believe that.