Twenty years ago, the UFC was born in front of almost 3,000 fans in attendance at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver.

Tyron Woodley was just 11 years old at that time. Now, all these years later, he’s on the pay-per-view main card of UFC 167, the anniversary event for the promotion, which takes place in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas. Woodley will go toe-to-toe with Josh Koscheck on Nov. 16 on one of the biggest cards of 2013.

“It means maybe the UFC thinks of me as a special person, and down the road I can be a star for their organization that can go out and put on a great performance against Josh Koscheck,” Woodley told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “It’s an honor to be on this card. There’s a lot of big names on there, so it’s an opportunity for fans to get to know me.”

Woodley, a native of St. Louis, certainly has a strong fan base in the state of Missouri. With “T-Wood” on the main card, the UFC stopped in his hometown as part of the anniversary tour that spanned two dozens sites and gave fans, including the NFL franchise St. Louis Rams, a chance to get to know the sport better.

Woodley (R) connects with a right hand (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Woodley (R) connects with a right hand (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“It was a great experience with them stopping in St. Louis. I think it just shows we are one of the top sports cities,” Woodley said. “Spectator-wise, I think people appreciate [the UFC]. It can be a little bit stronger in my opinion, but as you get more fighters in the UFC representing, you’ll start seeing the response become stronger.”

As one looks back over the UFC’s history, there are certainly many memories that we will never forget. From Royce Gracie’s dominance in the early years, to the great rivalries Chuck Liddell had with Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. But for Woodley, his favorite moments occurred in 2013.

“The last fight card, UFC 166, really set the bar high for us. UFC 167 was supposed to be the big 20th anniversary card, but the fight I watched between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez was one of the best fights I’ve seen, and it was one of the best cards I’ve seen in my life,” he explained.

“But my first fight [on Feb. 2], going out there and finishing Jay Hieron in 36 seconds with no jitters in front of millions of people, is thus far my favorite and most important moment.”

In contrast, the last time Woodley stepped inside the Octagon is a time he’d like to forget. At UFC 161 in June, Woodley was on the wrong end of a split decision verdict against Jake Shields. The bout received heavy criticism for the slow pace the two welterweights maintained, but the 31-year-old has learned from that performance.

“[Shields] just has the ability to make a fight boring and slow,” Woodley explained. “I had opportunities to be more aggressive after knocking him down a couple times. I could have followed up a little faster. For me, not fighting at the pace the other person is fighting [is what I learned]. I got to fight at my pace every time, all the time, regardless what the other person is doing.”

Woodley now moves on to arguably the biggest test of his career in Koscheck.

Koscheck, who was one of the original Ultimate Fighter cast members, has competed in 22 fights inside the Octagon dating back to 2005, with a record of 15-7 to show for it.

“He’s been in the UFC for a lot of fights and fought tough guys. As far as the competitive advantage for him, I believe he has an experience advantage of competing in these situations with top-level fighters more than I do,” Woodley admitted. “As far as competition in itself, I feel like the match-up is great. We have very similar styles. We both have very good wrestling, so it gives us an opportunity for fans to see a little bit more striking and conditioning.

“You’re going to see a complete fight from both of us. It’s a great match-up and that’s why you see it on the main card.”

Koscheck is in a bit of a must-win situation where a loss would give him three in a row, but Woodley is also looking to get back on track. Woodley is focused on kickstarting another streak to reach the top, while halting Koscheck’s chance at becoming a champion.

Woodley (top) looks to finish (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Woodley (top) looks to finish (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“I need a win, just because I need to win every fight that I can when I go out there. It’s not so much a must-win situation for me. When you add that pressure on yourself, then you put yourself in stressful situations,” Woodley stated.

“For me, I feel like I truly am a part of the new generation of MMA. I feel like he’s had his opportunity to prove himself in the sport, which he has done. Whether it’s causing crap or being a cut up, he’s had his chance to do that. Now, it’s the chance for the new generation of MMA to get in there, have their crack at the title and stardom. It’s my time. That’s just what it boils down to.”

So where does a victory over Koscheck put Woodley?

“If I go out there and freaking explode on Koscheck, which I plan on doing and fighting a great fight to show these guys I’m willing and worthy of fighting for a world title, we might see me jump everybody and go right to the strap,” Woodley stated. “We’ll see how things play out and what the organization has in store. It’s not really our place to put us in certain fights, but the squeaky wheel gets the oil, so I plan on going out, fighting hard and do a lot of squeaking afterward.”

Woodley will have his opportunity to get on the mic following a victory on Saturday, but there’s a long line of fighters vying for their shot. With the exception of the co-main event between Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen, UFC 167 features three welterweights fights where new-generation fighters are squaring off with veterans. It could be a theme to the night, when it’s said and done, if Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Woodley come out on top.

One thing’s for sure, Woodley is planning on taking care business.

“I don’t go out there thinking I’m going to lose the fight. I plan on winning in dominant fashion. My goal is not to try to knock him out. My goal is to try to beat him every single round, every single minute. If an opportunity for a knockout comes, then I’ll take advantage of it.”

Tyron would like to thank American Top Team for giving him an opportunity to be a part of a great team, his gym ATT Evolution for making his training camp go so smoothly, Metabolic Meals, Mascot Agency (which he says is the best marketing group in the world), his wife, children, and all his trainers, for putting him through hell so he can have heaven in the cage. Follow Woodley on Twitter: @TWooodley

Photo: Tyron Woodley (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.