Following his successful capture of the Cage Warriors bantamweight title at Cage Warriors 84 earlier this month, Nathaniel Wood is set to face the undefeated Joshua Reed in his maiden title defence at Cage Warriors 86 on September 16.
In an interview with MMA Plus, Wood spoke of the night he was crowned Cage Warriors champion, his first title defence and his potential journey to the UFC. Not only did the 24-year-old win the vacant bantamweight title earlier this month with a first round knockout, he also achieved it in his hometown of London where he was surrounded and spurred on by family and friends.
“You know it literally felt amazing, I’ve been training for 8 years and it literally all came down to that one moment so to look up at the crowd and see all my friends and supporters standing up in the crowd, it was definitely the best MMA moment of my career,” Wood said.
Although the Englishman was thrilled to be crowned champion he couldn’t help but admit he knew that his time would come.
“It feels amazing but I definitely feel this is where I should be, if anything, I feel I should have been here a while ago; you know I’ve got a little vision ball in my house and I had down I’d be Cage Warriors champion in 2016 so I’m a year late but I got there in the end. I truly believe this is what I’m destined to be doing, you know, I got an interview the other day on ITV and it was pretty cool to see myself on London ITV so you know, I think it’s all starting to pay off now. I’ve got good momentum, I’ve got a good team behind me and things really are looking up.”
Having won five of his last six bouts, Wood has become one of the top names on the Cage Warriors roster which is why it is no surprise there has been speculation around his name and the UFC. Despite this the bantamweight champion is happy to stick with his current organisation after having won both of his fights, signing a new three-fight contract.
“I’m literally buzzing for it now; they’ve said that they’re going to promote it even more,” he said. “The way I see it is if I was in the UFC now I’m just a little fish in a big pond, they’re not going to do much promoting but with Cage Warriors they’re promoting me well. I’m getting a lot of following and building up a good fan base now so to get back in there straight away and to get back on the London card where I know they’re going to push and promote me, I was happy with that.”
Although he has put pen to paper on a new contract with Cage Warriors, Wood revealed that there is a UFC clause in his contract.
Not wanting to sit on the sidelines in anticipation, Wood said: “I don’t want to be a champion that just sits on the belt for six months to a year and finds out the UFC hasn’t come and has to jump back in there. I’m uninjured and I just want to get back in there, defend the belt and when the UFC comes then that’s what I’ll look at but at the moment now I’m just enjoying the journey.”
Wood eyes successful title defence in his hometown
After a first round knockout in his last bout, Wood will struggle to top his previous performance. He is feeling confident, saying Reed is not as tough a match-up as his most recent opponent Marko Kovacevic. The Englishman will not get complacent however and knows in the sport of MMA anything can happen.
“I’m going to train exactly how I trained for the last one, if anything I think my next opponent is actually an easier match than my last one I think stylistically the guy who I just fought is better in all areas so I’m just going to do my own thing. Don’t get me wrong I know in MMA anything can happen on the night, everyone has a punchers chance so I’m not underestimating this guy in any sense but I don’t believe he’s better than the guys I’ve fought before so I’m just going to do my normal training and turn up with my A-game.”
Wood: “I believe I will be UFC champion”
The Cage Warriors title is just one of the accolades “The Prospect” hopes to acquire during his career. Wood hopes to emulate the success of Conor McGregor who has held both Cage Warrior and UFC championships, a goal in which Wood hopes to have accomplished in the next few years.
“I believe I will be UFC champion eventually you know on my vision board I’ve actually got that down, I think it’s 2019 so I’ve even got the little dates set but I’m a year late at the moment so if it’s 2020 then I’m happy with that. I just want to defend my belt on Cage Warriors then eventually get to the highest platform which is the UFC, make enough money to be able to live off comfortably and provide for my family and just live the dream.”
Days after the announcement that Conor McGregor will fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing fight which is set to earn both men a ridiculous amount of money, Wood believes there is no reason as to why he cannot follow the path of McGregor in becoming one of the sport’s biggest money-makers.
“You know the way I see it Conor McGregor actually won his belt on the same day I did in 2012, he’s just a man so there’s no reason why I can’t follow his footsteps you know. I don’t talk as much trash as he does but everyone’s different everyone’s got different personalities you know so I believe I can offer something else to the UFC. There’s no reason why I can’t follow his footsteps and make just as much money as he has and who knows maybe I’ll fight Mayweather.”