UFC makes their return across the Atlantic on March 18th at the 02 Arena, and fight announcements are well underway for what’s set to be one of the biggest nights of violence in the capital.
A chance for the UK fighters to showcase their vast skill sets in front of the home crowd, as well as the fans of London to bear witness to the biggest stage of Mixed Martial Arts.
Recently announced by the UFC, will be an all-English showdown between GB Top Team’s Nathaniel Wood and Manchester Top Team’s Lerone Murphy.
I took a trip down to Brad Pickett’s GB Top Team today to speak with one-half of this absolute barn burner, Nathaniel ‘The Prospect Wood’. Who is relishing the opportunity to compete once again on home turf?
Nathaniel ‘The Prospect’ Wood (19-5-0) is an English professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Featherweight division, representing Great Britain Top Team. Nathaniel has competed for Fusion Fighting Championship, UCMMA, BAMMA, Cage Warriors, Bellator MMA and UFC.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to meet with me at GB Top Team today National, and also to congratulate you on your recent inclusion to the UFC 286 London card.
“Thank you, mate. I appreciate it. It’s good to be back and back in London.”
My pleasure man, it’s great to see you back.
I hope training has been going well after the Christmas and New Year festivities, it must be such a buzz to be straight into camp as the 2023 MMA calendar kicks off.
“Yeah, I’m one of these people mate, I can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes. Getting a fight booked now is great for me, it means I can start the year fresh, I’ve got my goals, and now I’ve got an opponent and a date in my head. That’s everything I need in life really, a deadline, a project, I look forward to getting into the best shape of my life.”
Back to the 02 as well, where a huge part of your career was held at Cage Warriors.
“Yeah, that’s the home mate, that is home soil.”
Behind every great warrior, is a great team, and you are part of quite possibly the biggest MMA gyms in the UK today at GB Top Team. What does it mean to you to not only call this place the home of your camp but also to help build the future of the sport?
“Oh, it means everything. I used to travel to a gym that was about an hour and a half away there and back, so 3 hours of my day was spent travelling. Now, I’ve got probably one of the best gyms in the country on my doorstep. It’s a luxury gym, we got 1200 square feet, we got saunas, we got ice baths downstairs, we have everything we possibly need in this sport. It’s on my doorstep man, I bring my dog here with me, and we’ve got the best team as far as I’m concerned, in terms of the lighter divisions. We’ve obviously got mainly Featherweights, Bantamweights and Flyweights. We also have some great up-and-comers in the Heavyweight division as well. But predominantly we’ve got a big team for the small guys, the hobbits as we say haha. But yeah, it’s amazing, we have some serious talent coming through, hopefully, I can help these guys on their journeys as I’m a little bit older than them now, I’m enjoying every minute.”
I have to agree, I’ve had the opportunity to catch many of the up-and-comers here live on the regional scene, absolutely bursting with talent. And they have huge role models in yourself and many others here, that have gone on to achieve great things.
The UFC‘s trips to the UK always bring such a buzz across the country, especially those on the roster hailing from the UK. Fighting on home soil takes away the need to travel, and to be able to showcase your skills to friends and family that might not have been able to make the trip.
How does it feel to once again take the walk to the Octagon on home turf, and have many that might not have made the event in attendance?
“It’s the best mate. I’m local, I can stay at home, and I’ll have my friends and family there. It’s literally about a 40-minute drive for us, so everybody has no excuse not to be there. I do enjoy travelling, but going abroad to fight is a bit more stressful, especially for friends and family to be able to get there. This being on home soil for me is everything.”
I can imagine mate.
Your battles in the proverbial lion’s den have made you a household name on the UFC scene, and have given UK fans a prolific practitioner to hold in high regard on the biggest stage of them all in Mixed Martial Arts.
Since joining Dana White’s roster back in 2018, you have produced some exceptional performances. As you edge closer to another outing with the promotion, has there been a specific moment under the UFC banner that will always hold a special place for you?
“My most special moment with the UFC I would say was the 1st London card I fought in 2019 at the weigh-ins. Having a crowd like that at the weigh-ins, not even on the fight day, and having the cheers that I received to me, that has been the best feeling so far. When you fight, everyone cheers wins, loses or draws you usually have a buzz in there. But at the weigh-ins, to have a round of applause like I did, that meant a lot to me.”
“Another special moment was obviously my UFC debut, winning my 50g bonus haha, that was life-changing for me.”
Everyone is after that 50g bonus, and to get it on your debut, was such an achievement, and thoroughly deserved.
“It is about time, I’ve got a lot of people on Twitter asking when I’ll be in the game. Truth is, I have no idea so I’ll leave that to the UFC and EA Sports haha, hopefully soon.”
I’ve seen some close comparisons being made of you on there, you’re right, definitely would be about time.
As previously stated, not only do the fight fans have few chances to catch the UK section of the roster here, but also against one another.
This year, we get both, GB Top Team vs Manchester Top Team, two of the biggest gyms in the country and two of the UK’s biggest talents when you take on Lerone Murphy in March. How buzzing are you for this collision on March 18th?
“I’m just buzzing to be fighting mate, to be honest, it sounds clique, but there is no opponent. I’m in there and I’m becoming the best athlete that I can be. I will train the same whether I’m fighting Lerone Murphy, or whether I’m fighting Alexander Volkanovski you know, it’s the same deal, I’m super excited. Gutted I guess that I have to fight another UK guy but, at the end of the day, we fight. It doesn’t matter to me where my opponent is from, or who he is, he’s an opponent and he’s in my way of reaching gold and achieving my dream. I’m gonna train the same as I would if I was fighting anybody else.”
With you guys being close, this must be an interesting bout for you. Even relishing the bout with one another over Instagram, was that post I saw online real, you two messaging each other about March?
“That’s real, yeah. I got offered Lerome and I didn’t know if he knew at that point. We’ve not actually met and because we’re quite friendly on Instagram ie, we spoke about him coming to train with me, about me coming to train with him, we’ve been speaking for a while now. I didn’t want him to hear from someone else that we were offered to each other, so I messaged him saying this is what the UFC has given me, let’s have a scrap and have a beer afterwards. There’s no animosity on my end, at the end of the day, this is a sport, it’s no different to me sparring with one of my team tomorrow you know. Unfortunately, one of us has to lose and I don’t intend it to be me. He’s gonna be training to knock me out, I’m gonna be training to knock him out and hopefully after we can have a drink and a catch-up.”
It’s great to hear such respect amongst the fighters, I’m definitely looking forward to the night, and I’m gonna try my best to be there.
Once again, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak with me today Nathaniel, I wish you all the best with your camp, as well as your inclusion in UFC 286.
“Thank you mate, and thank you for having me, I you making the trip.”
Last but not least do you have a message for the fans that will be in attendance and anybody you’d like to give a shout-out to?
“Massive shout-out to my sponsors, I won’t name everyone because I’ll end up forgetting someone and I’ll get in trouble haha. Shout out to everyone at GB Top Team, my family, and my dad especially, he’s always there for me in my corner coaching me. Anyone that’s on this journey with me supporting, I’d like to see you there on March 18th and witness a great fight.”