Nathaniel Wood on UFC Utica debut, Brad Pickett’s guidance, being a knockout artist and Michael Bisping’s retirement

Nathaniel Wood

Nathaniel Wood (13-3) has promised another first-round knockout when he makes his major league UFC debut, on Friday, June 1 in Utica, New York

“The Prospect” faces off against Brazilian Johnny Eduardo on the undercard of UFC Fight Night 131: Rivera vs. Moraes, which takes place at the Adirondack Bank Center, in Utica, New York

The 24-year-old Londoner signed to the UFC in April, following the second defence of his Cage Warriors bantamweight championship.

He won the title — affectionately known as the ‘big gold belt’ — in June 2016 after he knocked out Marko Kovacevic in the first round. The Team Titan prospect went on to defend his crown twice, finishing both Josh Reed and Luca Iovine inside five minutes.

Wood’s opponent, Eduardo, 37, has maintained camp in the UFC since late 2011. Complications with injuries, including a torn labrum, have derailed his momentum over the past few years, though, and he only fought once last year. A first-round stoppage loss to Matthew Lopez.

UFC novice, Nathaniel Wood, spoke to DreySports ahead of UFC Utica to answer a few questions.

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It’s finally here, your UFC debut is just around the corner. What are your emotions and feelings now that we are just days away from UFC Utica?

“My emotions and feelings for the fight at the moment are all good. I’m sky high with confidence and I’m ready to get in there and get the job done. I’m more obviously interested in getting weighed-in at the moment because I’m starving hungry, but other than that mate, I’m all good and ready to rock.”

Your opponent Johnny Eduardo has shown a bit of inconsistency during his UFC tenure, do you feel his inactivity benefits you? I mean you fought 4 times in 12 months, in that same time, he’s fought once.

“I’m not sure too much of how it benefits me, but I definitely think that the age gap it is going to benefit me. Obviously, I’m not sure why he’s been so inconsistent, maybe it’s injuries or whatnot. But I’ve been active and I definitely think that’s going to help me out in the fight.”

WATCH: Nathaniel Wood vs. Josh Reed – Fight of the Year

How do you feel about making your debut in Utica, especially when UFC Liverpool was just last week? Would you have preferred a debut on home soil?

“It doesn’t bother me at all making my debut here.  I would have rathered it of course in Liverpool because I could have had all my friends, family, and everyone come and support me but it’s the same job, same opponent and I’m just going to get in there, get the job done regardless of where it is.”

We know your close friend and coach Brad Pickett has been there and done that in regards to the UFC. Has he offered any words of wisdom to ease you into this massive career leap?

“No nothing in particular, he knows how good I am and he’s confident in my ability and that just makes me confident as well.”

I’m sure there are things looking back, which Brad wishes maybe he could have done differently. Now that you’re going through this for yourself, do you think the benefit of his experience can ease your progression?

“I would say it helps with my progression just that I’ve already got an insight as to how the MMA world works. Brad was obviously there from the beginning so I’ve learnt a lot from him at my age now and he’s given me tonnes of experience to learn from.”

Jose “Shorty” Torres, a former two-weight champion at pro and amateur MMA has signed on at late notice. He’s debuting at flyweight but he’s equally as proficient at 135lbs. I’ve seen there’s already a bit of buzz about you two potentially mixing it up down the line. How’d you like that one?

“I don’t know anything about him, I’m never watched him but yeah I fight whoever the UFC will give me so if that’s who they wanted, then I’ll take it but if I’m honest I want whoever’s going to put me in the top 15 and get towards that belt.”

There have been countless fighters signing from Cage Warriors to the UFC in recent months. Right now, do you think it’s the best route to the UFC?

“I’d definitely say Cage Warriors is one of the best routes to the UFC, especially for the European fighters. They promote their fighters very well and they put on a lot of shows so it means fighters can be active, so yeah I’ve always had good words to say about Cage Warriors.”

Five finishes in five fights, should we expect another at UFC Utica?

“Yep, you can expect another first-round KO for me in my UFC debut.”

Just finally Nathaniel, the news has recently broken that Michael Bisping has retired from MMA. What is your favourite Bisping memory and how influential was he in forging the path that UK fighters like yourself are following now?

“My best memories would be him in The Ultimate Fighter house. He was one of the first guys for me that I watched who kind of made a real career of it, so he’s definitely pathed the pathway for up and coming fighters.”

UK fans can watch Nathaniel Wood make his UFC debut live on UFC Fight Pass from 11:30 p.m. BST, this Friday, June 1.

Nathaniel Wood photo credit: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors