Joanne Wood aiming for ‘Fight of the Year,’ but not convinced she’ll get it at UFC Fight Night 198

·4 min read

LAS VEGAS – While it might not seem ideal to have a wedding during the middle of a training camp for a UFC fight, Joanne Wood said the experience proved eerily similar to competing.

“I’ve got consistency under my belt now, and I can take on these stressful moments and opportunities,” Wood told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s media day at the UFC Apex. “The wedding day was like a fight to me. I didn’t eat the whole day, and then I was, like, a little bit nervous and then waiting for that person to come and take you and say, ‘Oh, this is it,’ so it was cool. Got to experience that – but obviously, you’re not getting punched in the face and you’re winning no matter what, so that was pretty cool.”

Truthfully, Wood (previously known as Joanne Calderwood) said the experience wasn’t as stressful as you might imagine. That, she said, was by design.

“I have to admit I paid someone to take that stress for me,” Calderwood said. “I paid for a wedding planner, my good friend Avery, so she took all the stress away from me. I mean, just the odd phone call and odd, ‘Give me money,’ but it wasn’t that bad. It could have been a lot worse. I don’t know how people do it, just from hearing what she had to deal with. But yeah, it was great, and it made the day special.

“I actually wanted to fight before the wedding, but I booked the wedding and then UFC called me that week and was like, ‘The week after or the 20th?’ and I’m like, ‘OK, we’re doing this. Yeah, let’s go for the 20th.'”

Three weeks after her wedding night, Wood (15-6 MMA, 7-6 UFC) now faces Taila Santos (18-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 198 event, which streams live on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex.

Wood was originally expected to face Alexa Grasso, but when the Mexican striker was forced to withdraw from the contest, Santos took her place. Wood said she never hesitated to take the new opponent but also admits there was some disappointment.

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UFC Fight Night 198 commentary team, broadcast plans set: Daniel Cormier on the call

“I was a bit gutted because I was looking forward to Grasso,” Wood said. “We’re both coming up from strawweight. It would’ve been evenly matched, weight class-wise, and she’s an exciting fight, so this is not going to be that much of an exciting fight, comparing those two fighters.”

Wood doesn’t mean that as an insult. She insists she has plenty of respect for Santos, who recently scored a decision win over Wood’s teammate, Roxanne Modafferi. But given that Santos spent 15 minutes looking to take Modafferi, a grappling specialist, to the floor, Wood thinks it’s pretty easy to see what’s coming considering her own striking background.

“She just fought my teammate, Roxanne, and Roxanne is known for being a grappler,” Wood said. “She was trying her hardest to get to the ground, so I’m like, ‘Ah, it’s probably going to be the same fight if she’s trying to get Roxanne to the ground,’ so I can see it being grueling. But you know, I’m going to make it fun and just go in there and do what I do and flow and have fun, try and make it an exciting fight.”

Wood currently sits at No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie women’s flyweight rankings, while Santos is just behind at No. 11, so it is a meaningful fight in the division. That said, Wood knows it’s not as if there is a title shot hanging in the balance. With that in mind, Wood says she has an intense desire to find herself locked into a “Fight of the Year” matchup in the very near future – even if this contest doesn’t necessarily seem to provide that opportunity.

“I’m always definitely going in there to win – you know, we only get half our paycheck, so that extra little bit always counts,” Wood said. “I try not to think too much about that, but that’s always the goal, and then just trying to enjoy this journey and not put too much pressure on, ‘Oh crap, I’m here again,’ and all the nerves and all of that. Just be on the rollercoaster and enjoy it as much as I can.

“Biggest thing for me is, man, I want a ‘Fight of the Year,’ you know, and it takes two to tango. I don’t think this will happen this Saturday, but these fights are happening, and I’m like, I just want to be part of that, and so, yeah, that’s also another goal of mine: just go in there, have fun, and put on a performance.”

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UFC Fight Night 198 commentary team, broadcast plans set: Daniel Cormier on the call