Tyron Woodley wasn't planning on waiting this long to fight again. The 34-year-old was expected to fight Johny Hendricks last October in the co-main event at UFC 192. But when Hendricks was forced to withdraw for weight cutting issues. Woodley decided to wait.

Nearly a year later, Woodley will finally step into the Octagon for his first shot at the UFC welterweight belt in Atlanta when he faces Robbie Lawler. Woodley hasn't fought in a year and a half, last appearing in the Octagon in January 2015. Woodley missed time with a broken foot following that fight, a split decision victory over Kevin Gastelum, but his lengthy layoff is not a byproduct of the injury or any complications.

As Woodley told CBS Sports, he's been operating on a "no strap, no scrap" policy since losing out on the Hendricks fight, refusing to take a fight that wasn't for the title. He finally was rewarded for his patience with this fight against Lawler, and in a sit-down with CBS Sports in June, he explained how he's more than ready to take advantage of this opportunity, in spite of his 18 month layoff.

CBS Sports: How are you feeling health-wise and how is training going with the fight a month away?

Tyron Woodley: I feel awesome, training-wise. I'm at a good point, strategy's coming together. All in all, I feel good about the fight.

CBS: You and Lawler both fight out of the American Top Team gym, do you feel like there's any advantage in preparation for a fighter that you have some added familiarity with fighting out of the same gym?

TW: I just think if anyone's going to have an advantage it's me, just because his fight style has been very similar the last couple fights. So, even if I didn't see him at the gym it'd be pretty accurate to study some film on him. I haven't been down there [to American Top Team] for a full training camp in a very long time, so the idea of him being able to game plan off me, they haven't seen me in the gym in awhile and they haven't seen me fight in over a year so I've been working on a lot of different things so it's harder to game plan for me.

CBS: You mentioned that you haven't been in a training camp in a long time. Is there any concern about ring rust after such a long layoff?

TW: I don't believe in ring rust. I used to believe in ring rust, but I talked to my buddy Dominic Cruz, who's a bantamweight, and he basically said it's a mindset. What you do in between in your time off determines how you're going to look when you come in there. If you sit around feeling sorry for yourself, eating burgers and ice cream and cheese all day, you might go out there and be a little flat. But as we saw him come back from a year layoff, he looked fresh, he looked good. Not being in that rhythm might be a little different because it feels slower.

People don't realize, looks fast to you guys, but when we're in there it feels slow. So much slower than actual sparring, so for me, it's focusing on that. I've been doing the right stuff in the gym. I've been studying Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and MMA fighters and I've also been commentating on Fox, so I've had to break down fighters and not only fighters, but [Robbie Lawler] as an analyst two or three times. I think that's going to give me a better game plan going into this fight.

CBS: You've noted in the past that Muhammad Ali is one of your idols. With his recent passing as you get ready for this fight, have you had any time to reflect on his impact on you as a fighter?

TW: I just think about him as an icon, as the greatest because of what he did and the adversity he faced in the ring. Coming back from huge deficits in fights, using the rope-a-dope and it looked like he probably should've retired, but he found a way to come back and I think that was a testament to what you can do in life. When things get you in the corner and it feels like you can't go on, you can fight back. You're never out of the fight. I think that inspiration that he had politically, socially, in the fight game, his charisma. You know, when he was doing all of that, no one liked him. They didn't like him at the time, everybody loves him now, but at the time he was a bold guy. He was the first to do that. The first person to step out and say what he felt, whether it was about going into the military or religion, he was just a bold individual and he spoke things into existence.

CBS: Back to the fight, Lawler is a feared striker. Because of his striking ability, will you look to lean more on your wrestling background to try and take the fight to the ground?

TW: I'm just looking to be a complete fighter. You look at Robbie, he does best when you put him in a situation where he's in his element, which is striking and when he's pushing forward and striking. I've had five submissions in the first round. I have 3, 4, 5 knockouts. I've had decisions. I've had grinding fights. You know, I've had brawls, me and Nate Marquardt freaking killed each other. So I think that I can do a little bit of everything, and what better time to put it all together. That's what my plan is, to prepare for everything and go in there with no solid game plan and just be more reactive and take more opportunities that are given.

Tyron Woodley patiently waited for his title shot and finally got it against Robbie Lawler. USATSI

CBS: Your background was in wrestling, but four of your eight UFC fights end with knockouts. Was the transition to becoming a striker just part of you becoming a more complete fighter, or were you really focusing on trying to become more of a knockout artist?

TW: It was just, basically for me, getting comfortable. You know, wrestling is second nature, I've been doing it for so long, so if it looks like someone's leg is available, it made sense for my first three fights that I would shoot for legs. I had been training at striking with the top guys. I'd been training at Wild Card boxing and really some high level striking coaches, but it really takes that light switch to click. One fight in Strikeforce, I think I just realized, I can punch you one time and knock you out, or I can punch so fast that it presents anxiety because you don't know what I'm doing and now I can take you down easier. Now I can punch you in the body or now I can kick you in the leg and now I can move out of the way when you come looking for me and I'm not there. So I think it was just realizing that I did have world class striking and I had the fastest hands in the division and it's only one or two guys in the division that's a better wrestler. I wouldn't even say that they're better wrestlers. You know, Johnny Hendricks has better credentials, but in MMA, I might be the best wrestler for the style.

CBS: Do you have a prediction for the fight?

TW: I just think I win by overwhelming and outworking Robbie and being a more well-rounded fighter than Robbie. I can honestly stand in front of Robbie and I have just as good a chance of knocking him the hell out, and he knows that, but what is a better strategy? To mix it up. Give him a little of brawl. Give a little bit of wrestling. Give a little bit of clinch. Give a little bit of takedown. Give a little bit of lateral motion. In general, we'll showcase how well-rounded a fighter I am and that'll present a lot of threats, a lot of anxiety and he'll get reaching, he'll get head-hunting. Anyone that's done that against me, I got really good hand-eye coordination, I got 20/10 vision and I can get there quick. That's my game plan, just frustrate him and take advantage when that happens.

CBS: If you get past this fight with the belt...

TW: When.

CBS: Haha, OK. When. There's the rematch between McGregor and Diaz at 202 at 170, would you be interested in one of those two for your first title defense?

TW: For sure, you know I don't want to think ahead. Obviously, Robbie Lawler isn't called ruthless for nothing, he's really earned his keep and has a crazy comeback story, probably the best comeback story we've seen in our sport. To take him lightly would be a silly thing, but some of the thoughts that they're having, some people are counting me out. They're talking about Lawler vs. GSP in New York. What about Lawler-Diaz or Lawler vs. Condit and people are already assuming Lawler is coming out with the belt. On paper, this is not the best matchup for Robbie Lawler. Look at his losses. Look at the people that defeated him. I possess every skill that they have and I'm hungry and I want it and it's been my time. So with that said, I want those people, the same ones that are talking about all that big money fighting, keep talking about it, you had all these big plans for Robbie, continue what you were talking about. You want GSP? You want Nate Diaz? You want the big money fights? Let's get it on.