Both coming off their first UFC wins, confidence will not be lacking when Kyle Nelson and Sean Woodson square off.
Nelson, 29, will enter action on Saturday night fresh off a first round TKO victory over Polo Reyes at UFC Fight Night Mexico City in September.
Nelson said while earning a UFC roster spot was an accomplishment in itself, earning a victory inside the UFC cage is what proves he belongs.
“It was definitely a big milestone for me. I wanted to get into the UFC and prove I was a UFC fighter. And I think in order to prove you’re a UFC fighter, you have to win at least one fight in the UFC,” said Nelson in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Winning that fight showcased some of my skills and a little bit of my ability, and let everyone know I’m at that UFC level.”
After earning a UFC contract through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (DWTNCS), Woodson, 28, wasted no time securing his first UFC win less than three months later with a unanimous decision win over Kyle Bochniak at UFC Fight Night Boston.
Other than the win, Woodson said one of his biggest takeaways from his UFC debut was how calm and comfortable he felt in the cage, a feeling he said will bode well for his career moving forward.
“We all hear about octagon jitters or UFC jitters so much, but I didn’t feel those at all,” said Woodson in an interview with MMA Empire.
“The moment I went out there, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was just relieved I felt so comfortable and just so at home in there.”
With Woodson standing at 6’2″ and possessing a 79-inch reach, Nelson is set to be at a disadvantage in those departments, standing 5’11” himself with a 71-inch reach.
But despite being on the lower end in the height and reach categories, Nelson said he believes his superior skills will offset Woodson’s physical advantages.
“Skill-wise and technique-wise, I think I’ve got him beat pretty much everywhere. I know how to fight against taller guys, and I have a lot of tricks for that too,” said Nelson.
“I don’t think there’s really anywhere he’s going to be able to beat me.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit hard back in March, forcing the cancellation of multiple UFC events, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding when and if UFC events would continue in the near future.
But after a brief hiatus, the UFC resumed business in an altered fashion, which Nelson said was the time he decided to stay ready to be able to jump at any fight opportunity available.
“As soon as coronavirus hit, I continued to run and stay in shape. We kind of thought, once UFC started going again, I wanted to be ready and in shape to be able to jump on a card as soon as it got going again,” said Nelson.
“I’ve been sparring and basically doing my normal training camp, but with less people. Instead of having 15 to 20 training partners, it’s down to just my coach and one other training partner.”
COVID-19 pandemic changed nothing for Woodson
Other than not knowing how long he would have to wait for his next opportunity to compete, Woodson said nothing changed for him following the COVID-19 lockdown.
He said he and his usual training partners continued to work throughout the pandemic, which allowed to him to stay in fight-ready shape for whenever the UFC returned.
“Nothing really changed for me. I’ve still been training consistently with the same training partners, but we’ve just had to be low-key about it and not really post about it during the lockdown,” said Woodson.
“Training hasn’t changed at all for me. All the guys I train with, they don’t do this as a hobby. This is a lifestyle for us, so we found a way to make it happen and keep training.”
With this fight set to take place at the UFC Apex, Woodson will be heading into familiar territory, having fought in the same venue and cage for his DWTNCS bout last summer.
Having already experienced the more enclosed and quiet atmosphere the UFC Apex offers, Woodson said he believes that will work to his advantage come Saturday night.
“When I had my fight on Contender Series, you could hear a pin drop in that place. It was so quiet. But whenever I get in that cage, I’m just tunnel vision focused on my opponent. Anything outside the cage doesn’t matter, so I don’t think it’ll bother me at all,” said Woodson.
“I hear a lot of people making a big deal about the smaller cage, but I’ve been in that cage and I’ve been in the big cage, and I honestly didn’t feel any difference at all.”
“I’d like to thank my coaches (Kru Alin Halmagean, Adrian Wooley, Claude Patrick), everyone at House of Champions, my sponsors (Moose Delaney’s Sports Grill, The SportLab, Sheath Underwear, Muskoka Renos, COOLR Meal Management Bags, Urban Beard, Copperhead Distillery and Spirits, Highlander Brew Co.,), and my whole family.” Follow Nelson on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM