Other Sports

Tyron Woodley, Bobby Voelker, Jason High prepare for MMA bouts

His workout session is prolonged on Monday. These 45 minutes pass, and he needs seven more to finish up an extra cardio session. Then, Tyron Woodley can talk.

But as Woodley talks, he’s out of breath and out of patience. His immediate focus is on letting his body recover, but he’s itching for much more than his banana and protein shake.

Woodley, 32, is ranked No. 3 among UFC welterweights. His next fight is the co-main event of UFC 174 on June 14 against Rory MacDonald, the UFC’s second-ranked welterweight.

This fight, which will take place in Vancouver, Canada, is just the next step toward Woodley’s ultimate goal.

“Inching and inching and inching and taking it one step at a time,” the former University of Missouri wrestler explains. “This step, fighting this kid Rory MacDonald, No. 2, I’m looking to flip-flop. I’m looking to go to No. 2 and push him to No. 3.

“I’ll just keep inching my way up until I’m the No. 1 guy in the world. I’ll hold that title as long as I can. I’ll do everything that’s in my power to maintain the belt, and I’ll retire at the top of the game.”

Woodley, who hails from St. Louis, and two fighters who train in the Kansas City area take the stage over the next week or so.

Bobby Voelker, 35, has been training out of KC for his fight against Lance Benoist at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 42 in Albuquerque. One of the three gyms where Voelker works out is Glory MMA, which is owned by Krause.

Also fighting on this weekend’s card in Albuquerque is Kansas City gym owner Jason High, “The Kansas City Bandit.”

“We’re just some tough Kansas City boys,” Voelker (24-11 as a pro) says.

Six years ago, when Voelker made his debut in Strikeforce, he needed a nickname. Three commentators interviewed him the day before his fight, tossing around ideas until one stuck.

“Vicious,” one commentator suggested.

“Yeah,” Voelker said. “I kinda like Vicious. I’ll take that one.”

“No,” the commentator responded. “Let’s see how you do tomorrow night.”

The next night, after Voelker knocked out his opponent in the second round, the same commentator approached.

“How do you feel about that win, Vicious Bobby Voelker?”

“I got my name, didn’t I?” Voelker laughed.

Since then, Voelker has been known both as Vicious and a knockout artist. He has clinched 15 of his 24 victories by knockout.

“I’ll win the fight in any way possible, but ... I feel best with those knockouts,” Voelker said. “I hit hard. I come at people hard. That’s what I like to do. I like to be a knockout artist.”

Woodley knows what it means to earn what’s his, too. He learned at a very young age, surrounded by drugs and gangs while growing up in the bowels of South St. Louis, where Woodley lived with his mother and 12 siblings.

Today, he goes by The Chosen One.

“Fighting gives to me a microphone,” he says. “It’s a way I can show my gifts that God gave me through fighting. Musicians and songwriters and actors and firefighters, they show their gifts through their work. You hear Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, some artist that is so phenomenal in their voice and like angels, and you know God gave them that gift so they can glorify Him.

“I believe that fighting is my ability to show people what God has given me to be a light and inspire people, to motivate people, but also to be transparent. They need to know that nobody’s perfect but also not being perfect is not an excuse.”

Through wrestling, Woodley landed at Mizzou. He became an All-American twice and earned a Big 12 championship. He’s proud of what he accomplished at MU, but he’s not satisfied yet as a pro.

Before each fight, Woodley (13-2) imagines somebody trying to take food off his 3-year-old son’s plate. As the music crescendos in his earbuds, his reflections intensify.

He remembers the time in seventh grade when his friend told him there wouldn’t be another prep wrestling champion at McCluer High within the next 25 years, only for Woodley to win a state title his senior year with a 48-0 record.

Then, he will walk out to the cage. He feels confident there.

Voelker, meanwhile, never forgets the Shawnee Mission South student, kickboxing for fun, who still lives within him. Voelker gladly carries the responsibility of representing all KC-area fighters.

“I think we feel like we’ve got something to prove, you know, just because we’re in the Midwest,” Voelker says. “We don’t get a lot of recognition here. I think that deep down in our souls and our hearts that we really have to perform and show something deeper inside us.

“To show that we belong.”

  Comments