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Fighter Profile: Nathaniel Wood

Nathaniel Wood is a UFC bantamweight contender from London, England. Wood made his UFC debut in June 2018 and only has one loss in the organization since. However, his road to the UFC was not as easy as people may think.

Making Of The Prospect.

May, 2012 was the first time we saw Wood take to the octagon in an amateur bout with Joe Taylor. Nathaniel won the 2 round bout at FUSION FC 4 via unanimous decision. Wood then claimed that he wanted to get a finish in his next fight and also that he wanted to fight at FUSION FC 5 just 4 months later. Wood’s wish came true as he was matched with Chris Ada for his second amateur fight. This was just 4 months after his amateur debut. Wood won the fight in just 56 seconds via triangle choke and felt that his 2 amateur bouts had done enough to warrant a run in professional MMA. Wood then quit his carpentry job and began to chase his dream.

The New Dog In The Yard

FUSION saw potential in Wood after his amateur bouts and decided to sign him to a professional contract. Wood went on to get big wins in February 2012 and 2013. He really began to show UK fans what ‘the prospect’ could do. Wood then went on to fight in UCMMA, BAMMA and even Bellator to put all UK bantamweight divisions that he was not only there to compete.

‘The Prospect soon became a fan favourite fighter around the UK due to his fast pace style and willingness to finish fights and put on a show for the fans. Around the different organisations Wood picked up valuable experience and ability going (7-2) with 5 of his 7 wins coming via stoppage. Many of Wood’s opponents would brandish ‘the prospect’ as one dimensional. They would critique his ability when the fight goes to the canvas as both of his losses came from submission. Wood then decided to take his camp to Nova Forca Jiu Jitsu, a gym in Surrey, England. A gym that was home to UK MMA veteran Jimi Manuwa. This is where Wood was able to become a more well rounded fighter and has never looked back since.

The One Punch Prospect

In 2017 Nathaniel Wood’s career sky-rocketed thanks to a certain UFC veteran that was also from the UK. Back in 2017, a 24-year-old Nathaniel Wood was hanging around a shopping center with his ex-girlfriend. He then spotted a familiar face amongst the crowd. At first, Wood wasn’t sure if he was seeing correctly until he shouted across the shopping center, “Brad, Brad Pickett!” When Wood realized that it was in-fact Brad ‘one punch’ Pickett he was star-struck.

Pickett acknowledged him back with a nodded gesture. Brad Pickett was a legend of British MMA and really showed the way for all young fighters from the UK. Brad had a style similar to that of Wood as they were both crowd-pleasers that always looked for a finish leading to them both being worldwide fan favorites. Pickett fought top-level opponents throughout his career such as Urijah Faber and Marlon Vera and even a unanimous decision victory over the great Demetrious Jhonson. Pickett is 1 of only 3 fighters to ever defeat the ‘Mighty Mouse’. Later that night Pickett saw that Nathaniel had posted a tweet about how amazing it was to see Brad Pickett. Pickett then realized that Wood was a fighter that only lived a few streets away. Pickett then offered to take Nathaniel down to TEAM TITAN for a training session, and the rest is history.

Mr. Cage Warriors

March 2017 was a huge turn of events for Nathaniel’s career. After he had trained with Pickett down at TEAM TITAN he decided to continue to train with Brad. In March 2017 Nathaniel Wood was signed a professional contract with Cage Warriors. Cage Warriors is a UK based MMA company that allows fighters to show their skills on the main stage. The UFC and Cage Warriors have a great relationship as the UFC is known for finding talent within the organization. 96 fighters have made the transition and even the Notorious, Conor McGregor. This was not the only good news to come for Wood in 2017. As to the dismay of MMA fans around the world, Brad Pickett hung up the gloves for the final time.

After a long 13 year career, we saw the last of ‘one punch Pickett’. As he checked out in front of a loaded 02 Arena in London with the fans chanting his name all night long. Despite this being sad news for the fans Pickett could not stay fully away from the sport as in a long 13 years of being a professional MMA career nobody has an eye for talent quite like Brad Pickett. He noticed the talent of Nathaniel Wood and decided to become the head coach of the 24-year-old. Together, they took Cage Warriors by storm. With the expertise of Brad Pickett in his corner there really was nobody stopping ‘the prospect’. He began to tear his way through the best Bantamweights that cage warriors had to offer.

It only took Wood 1 fight before Cage Warriors realized that he is not only a contender. But he is elite within the division and offered him a title shot against Marko Kovacevic for the 135lbs championship. Wood disposed of Kovacevic with ease, earning a TKO victory and finishing the fight with a flurry of punches. Wood went on to oppose his volume striking and high level grappling and defend his title 3 times earning himself a (4-0) record in the organization with 4 finishes and 4 sets of satisfied fans. It was not long before Wood’s talents were recognized on the main stage and with Brad Pickett in his corner the sky really is the limit

Prospect To Probem

In 2018 Dana White and the UFC noticed the potential of Nathaniel Wood and signed him a contract, to the delight of head coach Brad Pickett who went on to label him as ‘The Future’. Wood was all set to face Johnny Eduardo in his UFC debut in New York. The fight was going well for the Brit as he managed to land some good leg kicks and halt the movement of Eduardo, in round 2 Eduardo was able to land a takedown on Wood and secure top position to the dismay of the fans. Eduardo is a Jiu-Jitsu black belt and immediately began to try and set up a submission. However, to the shock of the fans, Wood used this opportunity to roll Eduardo into a D’Arce choke and submit the Brazillian in round 2, further establishing his underrated Jiu-Jitsu and putting the bantamweight division on notice.

Wood then used this momentum to get a quick turnaround and fight Andre Ewell in December 2018 where he was able to further implement his high-level Jiu-Jitsu and secure a Rear Naked Choke finish at the end of round 3 despite having his nose broken in round 2. At the end of the fight, Wood used his opportunity on the mic to ask Dana White for a Christmas present. Whereas other fighters would ask Dana for a fight bonus or a title shot, Wood used this opportunity to ask for a fight on the upcoming London card to showcase his skills in his hometown.

Dana granted Wood his wish and matched him with high-level bantamweight Jose Quinones where to the delight of UK fans he was able to secure a submission victory in round 2 and really put his name in and around those of the top 15.

The Magician vs The Prospect

Dana White stated that he was a big fan of Wood and decided that he was ready for the test. The UFC matched Nathaniel Wood with John Dodson in February 2012. This was Wood’s toughest test yet as Jhon Dodson is a huge name in the division. Dodson held the position as the #9 bantamweight in the world.

This meaning that a victory would put Wood into title contention. In the camp before the Dodson fight, Wood claimed it was the best of his career. Wood had felt fully prepared to take out ‘the Magician’. The fight started and Wood claims to have ‘overrated’ Dodson. Wood found himself to be the stronger and more fitter fighter in the octagon. After fighting out 2 even rounds disaster struck for Wood as a head clash lead to a really bad cut just above Nathaniel’s eye slightly impairing his vision. Nathaniel believed that the doctor was going to stop the fight leading to him pressing forward and going for a finish. 16 seconds into Round 3 Wood was clipped by a straight right hand that put him down and lead to Dodson getting the finish.

Future Of The Prospect

Wood understood that the head clash was a major factor in the fight with Dodson and claims that he left the fight in high spirits despite the loss. Due to COVID-19 Wood was not able to jump back in and fight with the UK isolating and nobody is allowed to leave. This also meant that Wood was forced to train at home. However, he claims that this may give him the advantage due to his father being his striking coach anyway and that gave him the opportunity to keep sharp in the comfort of his own home.

Wood then received an offer to fight on Fight Island on July 25th against fellow bantamweight contender Umar Nurmagomedov (12-0). Unfortunately, Nurmagomedov was forced to withdraw from the fight due to personal reasons and left Wood searching for an opponent. Step up John Castaneda (17-4). The Sexi Mexi was more than happy to take on Nathaniel Wood. The two squared off at UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Till. Wood Won the bout with a unanimous decision with all the judges scoring the card 30-27.

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