London – When real world situations creep into the combat sports world it brings a sense of perspective to what otherwise would be a contest between opponents.
UFC bantamweight Nathaniel Wood was to have faced Liudvik Sholinian at UFC London on Saturday night but the former withdrew from their bout to join Ukraine in fighting against Russia. Sholinian lives in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
Wood spoke on the withdrawal and sent a message to Sholinian.
“Whenever I fight always in the back of my head think opponent can change at any time. That’s why I never really plan my whole camp around one opponent. Obviously when what’s happening now in Ukraine just started to happen I actually sent Liudvik a message and said ‘Hey mate my thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope you’re ok and I hope this hopefully won’t affect our bout that we’ve got lined up.’ He replied with a nice message just saying ‘Thank you mate, but you know at the moment all I can think about is family etc’. The next day they really sort of kicked off. Once that happened I knew that he was obviously going to have to pull from the fight,” Wood said to reporters at media day.
“I’ve got nothing but thoughts and prayers for the people of Ukraine right now and Liudvik himself. I wish him all the best. I’m just lucky to still be able to compete on this card.”
Wood will remain on the card and faces Vince Morales who is coming off a KO win over Louis Smolka in Dec 2021.
“Thanks to Vince Morales for taking this fight. I know it’s not easy taking a fight on short notice specially in someone’s hometown. I’m pleased that he did take the fight.”
Wood is coming off a long layoff last competing at UFC 254 in October 2020 where he dropped a decision to Casey Kennedy which was seen by many as a controversial decision.
“Having the time off if anything’s made me a better fighter I feel. One mentally it’s really made me appreciate just training. Having my body working how it should be and having every weapon that I possibly can have in training it’s give me a little bit of an extra boost let’s say. And it’s given me time to work areas where I wouldn’t really work.”
Coming off a loss followed by such a long layoff a win over Morales is something Wood is definitely looking for to get back on track.
“Of course the fight is really important. I’ve been out for such a long time now and with my last fight being a loss. However I don’t feel like I lost that fight. I believe that I’m 5-1 in the UFC. I’m down as 4-2 but I don’t see that last fight, I don’t see how I lost that, but don’t leave it to the judges they always say. This Saturday I look to finish the fight, finish it early, and let the UFC know that I’m here to stay.”
Watch the rest of Nathaniel Wood’s media day scrum above. UFC London goes down Saturday March 19th at The O2 Arena in London, England.