Inside UFC Fight Island with bantamweight Nathaniel Wood

Nathaniel Wood is trying not to get too comfortable on UFC Fight Island as he prepares to take on John Castaneda this weekend.

The bantamweight is part of a massive 15-fight card on Saturday night which will see the UFC bring down the curtain on ‘Fight Island’.

Abu Dhabi has turned Yas Island into a getaway for the UFC during the coronavirus pandemic, offering European fighters like Wood the chance to compete after months of inactivity.

There is an octagon on the beach and endless room service, and with temperatures hitting as high as 44°C this week, Wood explained how the UFC has completely taken over Yas Island.

‘It’s a really weird feeling out here,’ he said.

‘Feels like a holiday even though I’m here for a fight. The weather is amazing, it is so hot out here. We’re able to go down to the beach. There’s no one around, it’s just the fighters and UFC people.

‘We can just roam around. Obviously I can’t exactly eat what I want, but I can chill by the pool. Maybe sip a diet coke by the beach. It’s definitely a surreal fight week experience.’

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Like his fellow fighters, Wood will spend a week in Abu Dhabi and here the ‘Prospect’ gives Metro.co.uk the inside track on ‘UFC Fight Island’.

Covid-19 testing

‘In the UK we had to do both the nose and the throat test. When we got here we had to do it again but we got to choose if we wanted to do the nose or throat. I chose the throat! Then they woke us up to do another one. First thing in the morning I had a tube shoved to the back of my throat. There’s another test on the weigh in day. They’re definitely making sure everyone is as safe as it could be.’

Food

‘They literally bring it to the door and leave it there! We don’t interact with anyone. We’ve also got the UFC performance institute guys here so they’ve been supplying all our tailored diets. If I’m honest the boxes are very small so there’s no danger of me overeating. My cornermen have had their meals delivered to their door three times a day, so they’re enjoying themselves.’

‘It’s all about the weight cut for me. I don’t think much about the opponent or the fight much. It’s about making weight for me and that’s kind of a blessing. Thinking about the fight or my opponent can be draining. I don’t think about my opponent for eight weeks straight. Once the weight cut is done, then I focus on the fight. That’s when I get into a fight mindset. Until then, I’m chilled. If I see my opponent in the corridor, there’s no animosity. I like to take my mind off of fighting in fight week. I usually stop watching any fights of any kind usually a month out from a fight, so I’ve not seen any of the fights on Yas Island….’

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Hotel

‘We’re in the W on Yas Island. I assume they’ve put me on a different floor to my opponent. I’ve only seen John (Castaneda) once and I don’t think he saw me. We haven’t been locked in an elevator together yet! I know he’s here, he’s showed up, so that’s good. I saw lots of the guys on the card like Darren Till on the plane, but other than that I’ve not really bumped into anyone. There’s not many places to go unless you’re going to the beach and fighters keep to themselves generally.’

‘We’ve got our own training room beside our rooms. They’ve removed all the beds and furniture and put mats down. We’ve got pads to do a workout, but they’ve got two gyms in the hotel too.’

Routine

‘The first 48 hours in the UK we had to do quarantine on our own in a hotel room. That was pretty weird, was kind of like a prison cell. Then we arrived it was another 48 hours of quarantine but this time we could do it with our cornermen. It was nice to have a balcony and we can see the racing track from our room. It’s a luxury hotel by the way. Since our quarantine was over I’ve tried to acclimatise to the time difference. I got to bed at around 1.30am and wake up late, around 11am. Then straight away breakfast is there at the door. Give it an hour and then it’s my first training session. Then we’ve got the rest of the day to do what we want. We’ve been walking around, going to the beach – just stretching our legs really. I do another session in the evenings but it’s just usually a light run to get a sweat on and burn some calories. That’s the typical day on fight island for me. We brought the Playstation and we’ve got that going. I’ve got my iPad. I probably spend ten hours a day on my iPhone. We’ve got Netflix on the Playstation too. We watched Django the first night and Inglorious Bastards the next day. I’ve also watched loads of Family Guy because it makes me laugh. It’s actually a lot easier than some of the other weeks I’ve had when I’ve fought abroad. I’ve gone to America and this has been a walk in the park compared to some of those trips.’

Wood takes on a UFC newcomer in Castaneda and is aiming to bounce back from his first defeat in the octagon last February against John Dodson.

The London native spent much of lockdown training in his back garden, but Wood is predicting an explosive return to action.

‘I believe I’ll get a knockout in the first round or maybe even a submission, depending on how desperate he is to go for a takedown,’ he predicted.

‘He’s been doing a lot of interviews saying he thinks he’s a better grappler than me. That gives me a good idea of where he is mentally.

‘So if I’m going off that then I’m pretty confident I’ll submit him. If he keeps it standing, then amazing, I can do what I do best.’

‘He’s took this fight on short notice so I don’t think he’s going to be anywhere near as in shape as I am,’ Wood continued.

‘I feel he’s going to be very eager to get the fight done. I think he’ll come out fast and eager to get a takedown. He might go wild! I believe he knows that if he doesn’t do that then I’ll just pick him apart throughout the fight.

‘If he does come charging at me, he’ll leave himself exposed. I really do see it as an early night for John.

‘But it’s MMA and anything can happen, so I’ve prepared for anything and the worse.’

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