EXCLUSIVE: British star Nathaniel Wood backs Alexander Volkanovski to ‘get the job done’ against Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 – as ‘the Prospect’ speaks on ‘game plan’ for Muhammad Naimov clash
- Wood recorded his seventh win in July to set up clash with Muhammad Naimov
- The ‘Prospect’ will fight as part of highly anticipated UFC 294 card in Abu Dhabi
- 30-year-old talked up his ability to ‘thrive in chaos’ and be a rival’s ‘nightmare’
In July this year, mid-way through a thrilling event at the O2 Arena, British star Nathaniel Wood triumphed over Andre Fili to record his seventh win in the UFC.
It wasn’t a straight forward victory for the ‘Prospect’, however, who was forced to battle intensely throughout the three-round featherweight bout, in order to secure the victory.
Fast forward just three months and the former Cage Warriors champion is preparing to step foot inside the octagon once again as part of the highly-anticipated UFC 294 card.
In the early pre-lims card, Wood will face off against rising featherweight star Muhammad Naimov, who has just one UFC fight on his record.
Ahead of the event, the 30-year-old sat down exclusively with Mail Sport to reveal his thoughts on the match-up, his last outing and Alexander Volkanovski’s late call-up.
Nathaniel Wood is seeking his eighth UFC win as he prepares to clash with Muhammad Naimov
Naimov (right) has won just one fight ahead of meeting his opponent in the octagon in the UAE
If you haven’t seen Wood’s last fight – that blockbuster win over Fili at UFC London – then go to YouTube and give it a search. You won’t regret it.
The English fighter claimed a unanimous decision victory over his American counterpart, however, he had to overcome some adversity in order to do so.
After an emphatic first round from Wood, he was caught by a big left-hand in the second and looked to be in a world of trouble – but that wasn’t the case.
After absorbing some heavy shots and surviving a submission attempt, the Brit displayed some expert grappling to escape and quickly turned the tide back in his favour. He claims it was through his ability to ‘thrive in chaos’.
Reflecting on the night, Wood said: ‘Obviously things can go wrong, I got caught with a big hook and mine missed. What happens sometimes in this game, you know, you both throw a shot, one lands and one does more damage, he cracked me hard.
‘But it didn’t put me out, you know, and I’m able to thrive in that chaos. So as you see in the fight, you know, he took my back pretty quick, I got out and took his back, you know, when he cracked me in that second round, I knew that when he was on the floor, just play it, play it safe, you know, recover, get your bearings back better.
‘I think that shows that I’ve got the ability to adapt to whatever situation is going on in the cage, you know, even when I’m hurt, I’m dangerous. I think I’m a nightmare for people in that sense’.
The fighter first fought in the franchise in June 2018, where he overcome Johnny Eduardo with a win via submission
After recording the victory over Fili, Wood was quickly matched up against Naimov – who has one fight and one win in the UFC to date.
Despite the Tajikistani fighter having little experience against the rest of the company’s featherweight division, Wood insists ‘anything can happen’ in their bout.
‘I’m feeling great. You know, at the end of the day, this is what I love to do. This is my passion. A lot of people like being classed as a fighter, but don’t actually love fighting. I love it. So yeah, I’m pleased to be back here in Abu Dhabi, you know, this time with a crowd.
‘I always say that, you know, anyone in the UFC is talented, you know, we’ve got four ounce gloves on at the end of the day. So, if you put the postman in there against me with four ounce gloves, you know, he has the potential to beat me!
‘Anything can happen. It’s a game of millimetres and Muhammad Naimov came out on top in his last fight. But I’ve watched his fights and this is a big step up for him. I know that I’m nowhere near like any other guys that he’s fought.
‘So credit where credit’s due, you know, fair play to him. But, I’m not under estimating. This could be Volkanovski I’m fighting, this could be my Muhammad Naimov, or it could be the postman. I am still gonna go in there with the same game plan and that’s to win’.
Wood said that ‘anything could happen’ when he faces off with the Tajikistani fighter
The 30-year-old enjoys being an active participant within UFC and would have fought more if not for injuries
The match-up with Naimov will be Wood’s 10th fight in the organisation, having only made his UFC debut back in 2018.
That’s more fights than most but the British star insists he envisioned being even more active within the featherweight division but was held back by injury.
‘I think I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome, you know, a lot of injuries, a lot of injuries with my hands in the past, you know, that put me out for a couple of years.
‘So even thinking that, you know, I had almost two years out, I probably would be on my 15th fight now, if that wasn’t the case.
‘But yeah, I think I’ve had a great career so far. My record in the UFC is seven and two, and one of those weights, you know, I really didn’t think I lost.
‘So yeah, you know, it’s tough to get in the UFC, and it’s tougher to stay in there. And I’d like to think that I’m proving that I’ve got the ability to do that’.
The fighter wants to prove he has staying power to keep going in the highly competitive UFC
Islam Makhachev (L) and Alexander Volkanovski (R) will face-off in the card’s main event
Wood will be one of the UFC fighters kick-starting a thrilling 294 card, which will see Khamzat Chimaev take on Kamaru Usman in the co-main event but Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev finish off the card.
Volkanovski, the current champion of Wood’s division, took the fight on just 11 days notice after an injury to lightweight contender Charles Oliveira.
It’s a move that garnered a lot of respect within the MMA community and one that Wood spoke highly about.
‘He’s a beast mate. I believe that he’s the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now. So it’s, it’s an honour to be in the same weight category as him, you know, and I like to think that he, alongside myself, are proving that it’s not always about the weight.
‘You know, the smaller guys can still beat the heavier guys. There’s a lot of advantages to being smaller, whether that’s the speed, whether that’s the ability to focus on your opponent, as opposed to just purely getting on the scales. So yeah, I hope he gets the job done on Saturday night’.
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