Nathaniel Wood is no stranger to playing the hometown hero from his championship run with Cage Warriors, but ahead of his fight with John Dodson in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, “The Prospect” isn’t too uncomfortable on enemy soil.
The Londoner arrived on location early to get used to the altitude. And even though Dodson is a New Mexico native, Wood has found it nothing but welcoming since his arrival.
“The people over here have been amazing, I feel like they’re on my side,” Wood told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.
“I haven’t met a load of people out here, but all the Uber drivers I’ve been having and everyone I’ve met at the hotel, I’d like to think they’re on my side. They’re really nice people out here, but if they want to boo me in the crowd, so be it. If they want to boo me, great, but regardless, I’m bringing my A-game.”
“If I’m honest, [hostile receptions] don’t bother me,” he added. “If they boo, it will add to the atmosphere. Regardless of whether it’s cheers or boos, it’s an atmosphere. I get tunnel vision in there. Come fight night, it’s only going to be me and John going at it. It doesn’t matter what the crowd do, I’m still going to put on the same fight I always do. It would be nice to get some cheers, but if I don’t get cheers going into the fight, I believe I’ll have ’em cheering me at the end of it.”
Wood is under no illusions regarding the challenge that awaits him. Although former flyweight title contender Dodson has only claimed two wins in his last five fights, he has acted as a gatekeeper to the bantamweight elite. Fighters like Petr Yan and Marlon Moraes announced their intentions for the divisions gold on the back of victories over “The Magician”.
“This is huge for me,” said Wood, acknowledging his opponent.
“I only want to fight guys that have something for me to gain from. Obviously, I could sit there and fight nobodies, but they’re not going to push my career anywhere. I want to be in there with the best in the world and prove my worth. I believe I’m one of the best in the world and now I’m going in against Dodson and that’s great because he’s ranked higher than me. He’s got a better C.V. than me, so if I can beat him where does that put me? If I can finish him, I believe I can fight anyone there is in that top 10 because he’s never been finished. He’s been in there with the best, he’s lost to the best, but no one has ever put him out. If I can go in and knock him out, or submit him or get a TKO, then I don’t think I’m too far off a title shot.”
Despite his 11 months on the sidelines, finishing Dodson is exactly what Wood intends to do:
“A lot of MMA comes down to who shows up on the night – it can be like a flip of a coin. I go in there, I enjoy it…I don’t really have a game plan as much, but out of my sixteen wins I’ve got 14 finishes, so I’m always confident I can go in there and get the finish.”
While UFC fans have yet to see a signature striking stoppage from the Brad Pickett product due to him claiming three submission wins in as many trips to the Octagon, Wood feels like Dodson might be the first UFC opponent he finishes with strikes.
“Usually he’s a runner, but with the fight being in his hometown, he’s going to try and come forward and give it to me, which makes me think that I’m just going to catch him. I’m going in my head with a second-round TKO, but if I can get it done in one, that’s perfect.”
Check out Nathaniel Wood’s interview on this week’s Eurobash. it beings at 1:03:30.