Nathaniel ‘The Prospect’ Wood (13-3-0) has surely outgrown his moniker. After going on a solid tear in his last five fights Wood has shown he is a spectacular finisher with both submission skills and KO power. He is a viral video sensation and it’s not before time that he has been snapped up by the UFC
It seemed inevitable that the UFC would come calling after ‘The Prospect’ had seemingly outgrown every UK Mixed Martial Arts promotion worthy of mention. Now signed on a four fight deal with the UFC, as Wood explained when we spoke, a place in the UFC’s roster was always inevitable. “I knew the UFC call was coming,” Wood said. “I was waiting on the confirmation from my manager, Chris Fig of Elite MMA. Brad Pickett was also talking to the UFC too on my behalf. I was thinking the Liverpool card was where I’d make my debut. I think I was just sitting on my bed when the news came though about Johnny Edwardo and I was asked if I want it and of course my answer was ‘hell yeah’! The offer wasn’t a surprise because after my last fight I just thought there was no way the UFC could not offer me a fight”
For some, on joining the UFC, the urge to pick up skills overseas with a larger MMA gym seems to be part and parcel of taking on international opponents. Wood is keen to stay true to his roots and has no plans to change what seems to be a winning formula. Wood is resolute in keeping his circle small saying, “I’m still staying with Team Titan. Mickey Papas, Brad Pickett and the guys on the team are great. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The way my last few performances have been I can only give credit to my whole team here. I don’t feel I need to go elsewhere. I’m going to stick with what works for me and just crack on.”
I’ve watched the evolution of Wood since his early amateur days when he fought on Fusion Fighting Championships. Since 2011 I’ve been privy to the behind the scenes emotions that came with his losses and indeed his wins. One thing, apart from his grit and determination, that seems unwavering is his focus. His quiet confidence has grown since those early scraps and what’s clear now is that he is keen to assert himself as a mixed martial artist on the rise and put the UFC’s Bantamweight division on notice that his ascension is set to continue.
“If I’m honest the whole division interests me,” Wood said. “Anyone that’s ranked I’m interested in fighting. I’m always looking at the quickest way for me to get to the top. I would love to have a go with Thomas Almeida and Tom Duquesnoy. I’d like to avoid the real lay and pray kinda guys because they are just no fun. For me I want to go in there against the strikers who are aiming for the ‘performance of the night’ bonus.”
“Cody Garbrandt, I’d love to get in with him too,” he said. “I know I have to prove my worth but I don’t believe it’s going to take me very long to do that.”
Wood’s mention of Tom Duquesnoy is an interesting one as at one point it seemed as though Wood was on track to face arguably, at the time, one of Europe’s hottest emerging talents. It would appear that Wood has some unfinished business that he’s keen to get over and done with as he explained. “For me, with Tom Duquesnoy, he was always been on my radar in BAMMA. If I had won my fight against Alan Philpott I would have fought him. It’s the fight that could have happened a long time ago and if we could do that on the UFC circuit that would be pretty amazing. Also he is a bit of a hype train. I feel he has a lot of hype behind him. I’m confident I could go in there and knock Duquesnoy out. I want the guys who have got the hype. I want the tough fighters, the exciting fighters who will get people watching.
“I don’t think much of him. Don’t get me wrong he’s good of course, but I don’t feel he is anywhere near the level that people believe he is and I don’t think he is anywhere near the level the UFC think he is.”
In recent years we’ve seen a selection of Europe’s prospects get snapped up by the UFC and in an almost revolving door fashion quickly get dispatched back to the regional shows. Wood is pretty clear this will not be his path as he offers, “I’ve always known that getting to the UFC is hard and staying in there is even harder.” Continuing he said, “I’m confident in my skill set and that it will speak for itself but a lot of people feel they need to trash talk to stay relevant. I’m going to literally be myself and perform how I normally perform and I’m just confident that will keep me in the UFC for as long as I want to remain in the sport.”
Wood will be welcomed to the UFC by Brazilian Johnny Eduardo (28-10-0) at UFC Fight Night 131. UFC Fight Night 131 goes down at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York on June 1. The card is set to be headlined by a grudge match between Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes. His message to Eduardo and the rest of the division is clear, “Just be ready for the hungry Brit coming up. I’m not looking to take things easy. I’m looking to get in there and get straight to the top of that division.”