It seems fitting that former UFC Middleweight champion Michael Bisping, a pioneer of UK MMA announced his retirement from the sport on the back of a UFC Liverpool card rich with UK talent and prospects. Now on the other end of the spectrum, Nathaniel ‘The Prospect’ Wood will hope he can emulate the success of fellow Englishman Bisping as he makes his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 131 this Saturday.
The 135lb fighter, who has previously fought on a number of smaller promotions, joins the organization as a former Cage Warriors champion where he held a record of 5-0 all by way of stoppage. The London man’s name is one that had been linked with the UFC for a while and in an interview with MMA Plus he admits that he felt it was a case of when rather than if he would be signed.
“It felt amazing you know but to be honest it wasn’t a surprise to me, I felt like it’s where I belong and they’ve taken their time to get here. Don’t get me wrong though it felt amazing to get that text to say listen you’re on a UFC Card now.
My manager texts me and said his names, Johnny Eduardo, in New York if you want it and straight away I just said to him hell yeah there’s no way I’m turning that down.”
Win Win situation for Wood
Wood saw his popularity grow as he made his way through the Cage Warriors bantamweight division and believes his title defenses have helped him in the long run. The Englishman has fought in his hometown of London in his last three bouts but admits fighting abroad will make no difference to him and will even help increase his notoriety.
“It’s always more fun when you’re in your hometown; you’ve got all your crowd and friends you know to greet you after your fight. But for me it doesn’t affect the fight, I’m going to go in there and at the end of the day, it’s me vs. Johnny Eduardo, so it doesn’t matter if it was just me and him or whether there are a thousand or a million people there, I’m confident I’ll get the job done. It doesn’t bother me I could fight him in his hometown and I’m still going to do the same thing, said Wood.
Similar to what I said with Cage Warriors, if they put me on a card abroad then what that means is I’m just going to increase my worth. So when we do come back to London I’m going to be an even bigger star and hopefully, a co-main or main event slot would be there for me.”
Although the former CW champion was happy to accept the fight with Eduardo he did admit that he believes he could step into the ring with anyone in the 135lb division, even the current UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillishaw.
“I would’ve taken whoever they offered me if I’m honest I feel like I’m ready to go in there tomorrow with TJ Dillishaw the number one ranked guy you know. I feel that with my skill set and my confidence sky high that there’s no one in the world that I would turn down. So for me, it’s all about the opportunity and I know you’ve got to build yourself up cus you won’t just be given the top caliber fighters straight away, but Johnny Eduardo is a hell of a lot more experienced than me. I think he was ranked ninth in the world so to beat him would help me make a statement in the UFC.”
Wood: I honestly feel amazing
‘The Prospect’ enters this weekend’s bout on the back of a successful defence of his Cage Warriors bantamweight title against Luca Iovine little over two months ago. Despite a busy couple of months, however, Wood believes this has played a positive impact on his preparation and has resulted in the best training camp of his life.
“My fight camp if I’m honest has been the best it’s ever been and I know everyone says that but it really has. I believe where I came out the last fight and just pretty much stayed in fight camp, I’ve maintained that fitness and strength. My weight cut has been easier than it’s ever been, in other fights I might balloon up get out of shape and then for the first five weeks of fight camp literally just try to get fight ready but this time around I’ve been fight ready for the last six weeks. You know a lot of the times you can overdo it like that but I honestly feel amazing, I’ve had the right team around me the right people so for me now it’s just literally get in there and get the job done.”
Johnny Eduardo welcomes Wood to the promotion and hopes to take his record to 4-3 under the UFC banner; despite holding three UFC losses it has to be said that two of the Brazilians losses came at the hands of the highly talented Aljamain Sterling and Raphael Assuncao. The 39-year old will now look to bounce back from his last bout where he experienced the first ever KO/TKO loss of his career and ruin the debut of the new boy Wood.
The Team Titan manfully acknowledged the career Eduardo has had as well as the skill set he posses’ however believes his opponent’s style will benefit his chances of winning.
“I think he’s done very well in his career you know he’s obviously a very high-level guy who’s got a good record and I think he’s only been knocked out once which was his last fight. For me what stands out is his age, he’s 39-years old so to be fighting at that age is very old. He’s more of a striker as well and I’m a striker too so hopefully he’ll come and meet me in the middle and we’ll see who’s chins stronger.
I think he’s going to come out, we’re going to stand toe to toe and I’m going to knock him out within the first few minutes.”
Wood eyes top ten rankings
Despite this, the debutant is not looking past his opponent this weekend and admitted he is just going to take what is offered to him and work his way through the division. That said however he does have a couple fighters he believes would make for an exciting match-up.
“I’m just going to work my way through like at Cage Warriors you know. I don’t turn anyone down so for me I would rather guys that are ranked higher and that with me beating is going to put me somewhere. For me an exciting fight would be someone like Thomas Almeida, Tom Duquesnoy etc, I want to prove I’m a top caliber fighter and I think they’re the guys that realistically I’d get matched with, said Wood.
I’d happily go in there tomorrow with TJ Dillishaw and fight for the belt but I know that’s not going to happen so for me give me the guys that are ranked higher and are going to put me in that top 10 position.”
After what has been a busy and successful year so far Wood admits he will look to take a couple months off after his debut and hopes to step foot in the Octagon once more this year.
“It all depends on when they next come to London, I know they usually like coming to London at the beginning of the year so if they were coming let’s say February, March, I don’t have a clue but if so I’d ideally want one more fight before then. I am going to after this fight have a couple months off because where I’ve been in fight camp for the first Cage Warriors one this year and then straight through, it’s not fair on my friends family girlfriend you know. For me, I’m going to have a couple months off, enjoy it for a bit and then get back to the grind and see what the UFC are offering.”
The journey has only just begun for Wood
Something Wood reiterates is his inability to turn down a fight; this has seemingly led to his next bout being his fifth in just over a year but admits it’ll all be worth it when he puts on those UFC gloves.
“As I said at the beginning it feels good but it feels right, I feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be. For me it’s been a hell of a long journey, it’s been about nine years now I’ve been dreaming it and now it’s a reality so when I put those UFC gloves on it’s going to be a good feeling.”
As a former champion himself, Wood has already set his eyes on the 135lb strap of TJ Dillishaw’s and hopes to one day get the opportunity to become the second ever English UFC champion.
“I’ve been looking at that bantamweight strap for the last three years now, I honestly believe I could get in there tomorrow and fight for it so you know as I said I’m going to work my way up the ladder and hopefully get that opportunity.”
Wood is no stranger to exciting fights having stopped five of his last opponents and the last three within the first round, including his crazy title defence against Josh Reed which went viral. For those who still know little about him ‘The Prospect’ has told MMA Plus what the fans can expect to see come June 1.
“Just look forward to a fast-paced exciting fight, I come out from the get-go and I don’t like to be on the back foot so expect fireworks come June 1st.”