As part of a stacked undercard on the first show of the Bellator Europe series, Dominique Wooding (5-2) faces Bailey Gilbert (2-3) in a featherweight contest that sees both men make their Bellator debuts. The card takes place on Saturday 9th February 2019 from the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England and is the launch of Bellator’s ambitious plans in the region.
BAMMA veteran Wooding is entering the fight off of a close split decision loss to Dean Garnett at bantamweight for ACB last May in a fight that many fans thought he did enough to take the victory. He looked dangerous on the feet for the duration of the bout but was held against the fence, taken down on a few occasions and lost some grappling exchanges which must have been enough for the judges to hand the victory to his opponent. However, losing such a close fight to a legit talent like Garnett has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm and Wooding believes the loss will make him a much better fighter as a result.
“I and many others thought I won that fight but it is what it is. I’ll move on, learn from my mistakes and go again,” said Wooding. “There is no need to dwell on the past as I’m only looking forward and have improved a lot since that fight.”
Wooding has bounced around weight divisions over his past few fights and has competed from as low as flyweight, all the way up to featherweight. He was asked if he planned on making an extended run in one particular division but seemed noncommittal to the idea.
“My debut is at featherweight but I’m a natural bantamweight. I don’t mind taking fights at 135 or 145. I’ve fought at 145 before and it felt great as I didn’t have to cut much weight like I do to go to 135.”
Wooding is a member of Team Titan where he trains alongside fighters such as Brad Pickett, Nathaniel Wood and Nathan Greyson. With more of his teammates getting signed to bigger promotions, Wooding believes that now is their time to lay down markers for their competitors.
“The whole team is improving and more guys in the gym are now fighting on bigger shows with better pay so it just lifts up the team spirit and morale. Training with high level guys in the gym only makes us all improve and elevate our own games,” Wooding explained.
‘The Black Panther’ is looking forward to getting back into the cage for the first time in eight months in Newcastle to show the different improvements he has made. He is facing Bailey Gilbert for his Bellator debut but it turns out that many potential foes weren’t so keen on meeting Wooding in the centre of the cage.
“I got offered a couple of guys before this fight became official but none of them accepted a fight against me. I’m fighting Bailey Gilbert now so it’s all good. When I got offered him, I had never heard of him. I’ve looked up some footage of him and let this just be said – I’m going in there to make a statement! That is all. Respect to him for taking the fight that others didn’t want but he hasn’t fought the type of competition that I’ve fought. I’ve got a lot on him in terms of experience,” said Wooding. “Plus, I’m coming off of a loss against one of the top bantamweights in Europe so I’m hungry to get back in the win column and have an impressive Bellator debut. I’m ready to introduce The Black Panther onto the Bellator scene.”
With many of the European talent that have recently been signed to Bellator, fighter pay is seen as a reason why the promotion is an attractive option to so many. This is no different in the case of Wooding.
“Bellator is different in terms of fighter pay compared to the other shows I’ve fought on so all is good. Bellator is the show behind the UFC so now I’m fighting at an elite level. I think I will regularly be on the European shows which I’m fine with. I would also like to fight on their shows in the states too which I’m sure will be happening real soon.”
The conversation ended with the 22 year old laying out his own plans and goals for the year ahead. “I want an active year with Bellator. I’m looking to have a couple of fights before the summer and a couple more fights in the fall. I’m looking to have 3/4 wins in 2019.”
Being so early in his fighting career, it could well be the case that fans won’t see the best of Wooding until another 5/6 years time. The raw potential he has is clear for all to see and if he continues showing the recent improvements that he has done fight over fight, many of Bellator’s bantamweights and featherweights will be looking over their shoulders to ensure that they don’t become another piece of prey for The Black Panther.