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MMA champ Tyron Woodley is preparing for his fourth title defense, but it’s his life outside the cage that makes him a superstar

‘As long as you’re winning in life, things have to line up’

UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley wakes up every morning between 8 and 9 a.m. He starts his days off taking supplements and eating a balanced breakfast.

“Nothing too heavy that’s going to make me lethargic,” he says.

The mixed martial artist follows up with some drill training and a little cardio, two staples in his workout regimen as he prepares for his fourth title defense. He will face 25-year-old British fighter Darren Till (17-0-1) on Saturday at UFC 228 in Dallas.

For Woodley (17-3-1) his toughest opponents are those he’s already faced, on paper.

“What [my opponents] have now is youth,” Woodley told The Undefeated. “Youth is something that is very dangerous. Respect it. The fact is I respect all of my opponents and I train accordingly.”

As Woodley, 36, seeks another UFC victory, thoughts of his family linger in the shadows. The father of four (Tyron Jr., 15, Darron, 10, Dylan, 7, and Gabby, 3) says his children understand the dynamics of his career and support his endeavors in and out of the cage.

“They know I’m actually focusing on trying to make their life better and trying to give them opportunities that I never had,” he said. “I communicate with them, whether it’s text message or FaceTime. I talk to them. I see them. We keep a very strong relationship.”

Outside the octagon, Woodley considers himself a modern-day Renaissance man. He’s a family guy with a variety of interests, including his gym ATT Evolution in Brentwood, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb, which opened in 2011.

“I’m just trying to … incorporate fitness to the household,” he said. “If I want to get some training in, or if somebody wants to do personal training, it’s a place where it’s kind of a one-stop shop.”

A native of Ferguson, Missouri, a city that has faced its share of social challenges, Woodley is a champion of his community and considers himself socially conscious.

“I’m proud of being from [Ferguson],” Woodley said. “It got a lot of negative light. I’m just trying to do my best efforts to shine a positive light. There’s people that are Grammy Award winners, engineers, professional athletes, state representatives that came from that environment, and I think that it actually built many strong people. So the story and the narrative need to be portrayed a little bit more.”

After high school, Woodley attended the University of Missouri, where, despite being told he was too small to compete, he became a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler.

“I think it’s important that, if you’re from the same environment, that you utilize every opportunity that you get and all of your platforms to try to show people something different,” Woodley said. “[Show people] that they can be successful and find a different way to try to capitalize on successful things in life pertaining to their goals without having to go the route of drug-dealing and things of that nature.”

Woodley’s professional career took off in 2009. He spent time in Strikeforce and later joined UFC, where he made his promotional debut and defeated MMA fighter Jay Hieron in 2013. Woodley became welterweight champion on July 30, 2016, at UFC 201, defeating defending champion Robbie Lawler.

Known in the mixed martial arts world as “The Chosen One,” Woodley put some of his energy into acting, gaining roles in Olympus Has Fallen, Sultan and Straight Outta Compton.

“That’s always just something that I wanted to do,” he said. “I just feel like, in general, I’m just an artist. Whether it’s mixed martial artist, or recording artist, or something in television, movie or radio, those are all things that I do real well with.”

Woodley also curates a YouTube channel that has gained more 22,000 subscribers and 2 million views since its launch in 2012. It features self-produced episodes in his series titled Champ Life and Champ Camp. He co-hosts a podcast, Morning Wood with Deez Nuts, with Din Thomas and a weekly web series, The Hollywood Beatdown, on TMZ.

Woodley has no expectation of retiring anytime soon, but he has started preparing himself for his next chapter in life.

“I just plant a lot of seeds,” he said. “You plant seeds, and you water them, and you nurse them, then they’ll grow. I’m already seeing some progress in some of the things in these other categories, but it is a balance to stay focused on the fighting, especially because I would be silly to not give it my primary focus right now when I’m just now approaching my prime in my career, where I can do the best and make the most money and really leave myself as one of the legends in the sport. It’s kind of hard because some of these things are fun, and there’s a lot of movies and things that I was almost a part of, but training camp had to take precedence. I couldn’t do those things.”

He mostly looks up to the late Muhammad Ali.

“I like what he did for the sport of boxing, how he brought excitement to it, and also how he chose to use his platform to do positive,” Woodley said.

As the 11th child born into his family, he is inspired by his mother and his own children.

“Having 13 kids in the house always told me don’t quit,” he said. “She showed me the definition of sacrifice. My kids inspire me to keep going hard because, at the end of the day, I’m not just doing it for myself anymore. When I look at them, and I look at their needs and what they want to do and the lifestyle that I provide for them, and I want to continue to be able to do that.”

The hardest part of Woodley’s journey is not allowing obstacles to hinder him from moving forward toward his goals.

“There’s always been a lot of obstacles for me to go through to get to where I’m at. I embrace it now. It’s who I am. It’s what made me. At first, that was something I would say would kind of deflect or kind of take me out my focus.”

The best piece of advice he’s ever received is to keep winning.

“I think that goes to any part in life,” Woodley said. “As long as you’re winning in life, things have to line up. They have to go in your favor because if you aren’t winning, then people wouldn’t want you for exposure. If I focus more on winning and doing what it takes to win, and less on stuff that goes along with it, then I think everything will start ironing itself out.”

The best piece of advice he gives to new fighters is to embrace the process.

“Be patient with the process and also know that, if you really want it, you take your time and it’ll come to you …,” he said. “Mixed martial arts is not fully loaded for most people. You have to endure. You have to make it through to finally make it, and most people don’t make it to the point where their mind, their skill set and their opportunity allows them to actually go out there and get some of the things that they want.”

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.