It has been nearly two weeks since Michael Brown was shot dead by Ferguson, Missouri police, and the general public still knows next to nothing about the circumstances surrounding his death. No police report has been released, journalists have been detained, and clashes between police and protesters continue to erupt as the eyes of the world look on. Making things all the worse is the fact that some members of the community, whether out of outrage or plain selfishness, have taken to looting and destroying local stores in a misguided response to the overbearing incompetence being displayed by their police force.
The chaos in Missouri has weighed especially heavy on welterweight contender Tyron Woodley, a Ferguson native who has been forced to watch the destruction of his hometown from afar while preparing for his co-main event matchup against Dong Hyun Kim at this weekend’s Fight Night 48: Bisping vs. Le card in Macau. In an attempt to keep the distractions at a minimum, Woodley’s coach has banned him from accessing social media of any kind. Still, the turmoil is all too real for Woodley, who compared Ferguson to Iraq when speaking with FoxSports:
Woodley was in town last week and drove through his neighborhood one morning after an ugly night of unrest. He couldn’t believe what he saw: auto-parts stores, Walmarts, meat markets and beauty salons, all torn apart by looting.
“If I put this video on the Internet, you wouldn’t even believe it,” Woodley said. “It’s so horrible.
“It’s almost like they’re at war. It’s like Iraq. … The best thing I can do from this far away is support the positive. There’s nothing wrong with protesting, to peacefully assemble, but also be sure it’s peaceful.”
Days out from one of the biggest fights of his career, Woodley knows that there is little he can do to help the neighbors, friends, and family members involved in the protests. Rather than devote too much of his attention to the plight of his hometown and risk losing focus on Kim in doing so, Woodley says that all he can do is try to serve as a role model to the people of Ferguson in these unstable times:
The best thing I can do for my city this far away is go out and show that someone who’s from that environment is doing something with their life — has a college education, is a pro athlete, a stunt actor, a gym owner, an entrepreneur. I am all of those things, and I’m from Ferguson.
There’s no denying that the events transpiring in Ferguson have reached far beyond the city’s limits, which hasn’t exactly made it easy for Woodley to avoid reading up on the situation. As he told BloodyElbow:
I was all in to it, reading and following up. A lot of the people involved were people I’ve seen, are in my high school, my friends, or family members. I went to that gas station many times to fill up and my house is literally two minutes from there, so it hits very near at home.
Our world in general is pretty f-ed up right now, but you have to be able to put that away and be focused thinking of the task at hand.”
Filling in on short notice for an injured Hector “Showeather” Lombard, Woodley is facing a mountain of a task in Dong Hyun Kim, who is on the heels of a Knockout of the Year frontrunner over Jon Hathaway. But one thing’s for sure, win or lose, Woodley will be in for a whole new type of fight upon his return home.