While fans were displeased with Tyron Woodley’s UFC 214 title defense against Demian Maia, Woodley’s performance came with a big price. His health. Woodley is expecting a lengthy time on the sideline if he is forced to undergo shoulder surgery to recover his torn labrum. He is hoping he can get through the injury via rehabilitation, which could mean we’ll get a chance to see him action later this year, but a certain rumor of a possible interim UFC welterweight title fight taking place in his absence has popped up on the web. While the rumor has yet to be confirmed, given the UFC’s nature of introducing interim titles prematurely, it may soon become a reality.
Lowkick MMA reported that sources from both Robbie Lawler and Jorge Masvidal’s camps have been approached by the UFC about the possibility of fighting each other later this year for an interim title. Masvidal has told the media several times that Lawler is friend and former training partner, but if a title was on the line, he’d be willing to fight him. Lawler crossed a similar bridge last year when he fought and lost to Tyron Woodley. If the rumor does come to fruition, the UFC will be hurting their relationship with Woodley. Then again, do they really care? Woodley made his case on the MMA Hour last week when he brought up several exceptions to champions avoiding being stripped despite being inactive for long periods of time. Woodley makes good point, but the UFC has been trigger friendly as of late when the potential of producing a title fight comes their way. 2017 hasn’t been as successful as 2016 in terms of pay-per-view buys and given the lack of excitement in Woodley’s last two performances, they could attempt to introduce a new champion in order to please their audience. The problem with that is neither Lawler nor Masvidal are household names so they are unlikely to produce the profits that a George St Pierre would.
If GSP or heck even Nick Diaz were serious about returning to the 170 lb division in the wake of Woodley’s absence they could decide on an interim title without even checking to see if Woodley would be able to get through his injury without surgery. A similar occurrence is playing itself out with their middleweight division at this time. Robert Whittaker is expected to be out until 2018, but when asked if he could’ve potentially returned in time for November, he told ESPN that he would’ve had to speak to his doctors and coaches, but there is a possibility he could’ve made it back in time. Whittaker also expressed compliance with the money fight between George St Pierre and Michael Bisping as he understands the UFC’s reasoning for going in that direction.
Woodley is most likely unwilling to display the same attitude towards a welterweight interim title fight, but what could he really do if the UFC makes up their mind? Woodley, for all the criticism he receives has defended his title against the #1 contender in three separate occasions and now there really isn’t a #1 contender, which probably makes his injury ideal. If you could pick a time to be forced to the sidelines, now would be it for “The Chosen One.” The problem is that he might no longer dictating the terms the way he did when he pushed for the Maia fight in July, just two months removed from Maia’s last fight against Masvidal.
Should the UFC consider this rumor that should be taken with a grain of salt, it would mark a new low for the company that has shown more inconsistencies in their matchmaking as of late. This is not to say that a fight between Lawler and Masvidal doesn’t make sense considering their place in the rankings, but making up a title just so these two would be willing to sign a contract to fight each other seems strange. Especially when there is still a chance to book Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson against either of the two sometime later this year. Till then the only thing left to do is wait and see how the division plays out in the champion’s absence.