PARIS – After a decade at bantamweight, Nathaniel Wood gave himself a fresh start at featherweight earlier this year.
But in a bit of a rarity, he said it was a fight that never happened that gave him the push to move up a division. When Vince Morales pulled out of a March fight on the day of the card in London in March, Wood was left watching from the sideline instead of making his return for the first time in nearly a year and a half.
The result was a move to 145 pounds against Charles Rosa in July and a win after 21 months of inactivity.
Saturday, Wood (18-5 MMA, 5-2 UFC) opens the UFC Fight Night 209 main card in Paris against Charles Jourdain (13-5-1 MMA, 4-4-1 UFC).
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“I’m feeling great, honestly. It’s just nice to be active. I’m back doing what I love to do,” Wood said at Thursday’s media day ahead of the event at Accor Arena. “I haven’t got serious weight cuts where I have to put my life on hold for 12 weeks. Five weeks ago, I fought Charles Rosa, and now I’ve got Charles Jourdain.
“I think everything happens for a reason. I think the fight where I was meant to fight Vince Morales, and he pulled out – I think that was a sign to move up a weight. I think my performance against Charles Rosa was perfect. I don’t think I could’ve done better, other than getting the finish, of course. I think (going to featherweight) was supposed to happen, and here we are now.”
Wood, a former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion, now has an opportunity to put some momentum together. He lost to Casey Kenney in October 2020, but didn’t get a chance to get that taste out of his mouth until July.
Now in a new weight class, he thinks a win over Jourdain on the heels of one against Rosa will pay dividends.
“I’m just feeling excited,” Wood said. “I’ve got an opponent who comes to bang. Stylistically, it’s a perfect matchup for me. It’s a perfect matchup for the fans, as well. … I think he’s a very talented fighter. Obviously, he’s ranked above me – that’s exactly what I want.
“The way I see it, I’ve got a three- to four-year period, I think now, where I’m going to be in my prime. So if there’s ever a time to take it up a notch and start chasing that belt, it’s now. Charles Jourdain, I think, is one of the best strikers in the division. I think a good win over him puts me maybe in that top 15 rankings. If it doesn’t, I’ll just keep knocking out whoever I’ve got (in front of me), and eventually I’ll get a shot.”
Check out the full interview with Wood in the video above.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 209.