Joanne Wood was more than happy to agree to a fight at UFC 286: Edwards vs Usman 3 in London. It would be her first fight in the UK in nearly six years and first time competing in an MMA bout in London. After stepping back from competition for a bit, the circumstances were rather perfect for Wood.
There was just one problem.
“The hardest part of this fight taking this fight was, ‘Oh, crap, it's in London. I need to leave the dog,’ (laughs),” Wood told UFC.com. “My manager was like, ‘Are you good with the fight?’ And I was like, ‘Of course I'm good with the fight; I'm just worrying the dog right now.’
“I'm getting behind the hype of being the dog mom. I get what everyone was saying because this is my first dog. Before, I was like, ‘People are crazy,’ and now I'm obsessed. I'm that person. I want more.”
Canine arrangements aside, Wood heads into UFC 286 on a tough run of form. Three losses in her last three, and four losses in her last five, Wood has fallen a bit since a presumptive title shot was in her hands.
Her most recent result – a first-round submission loss to current flyweight champ Alexa Grasso – led Wood to take some time away and recuperate a little bit.
“The biggest part for me was my mind,” Wood said. “It was really hard to be confident when the past two fights I was going in injured, so, for me now, looking back, I'm like, ‘Oh, this is what I'm supposed to feel like going in.’ I think everyone needs that little reset when things aren't really going their way, so it's always good to take (time), and you do always look back and think, ‘Oh, OK, yeah, that was definitely needed, and I'm in a better place now.’”
And perhaps outside of her native Scotland, there’s few better places to return to than London.
The last time she fought in the UK, she earned a Fight of the Night decision win over Cortney Casey at UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs Leites in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The atmosphere still lives with me,” Wood said. “I still get goosebumps. I've been a guest fighter to the London events a couple of times, and I know it's also an amazing atmosphere in there. Us UK people are just different, and I guess I'm probably biased, but it just makes you feel special in there, and I'm really looking forward to Saturday night. I’m going to walk out there, and they're going to raise the roof.”
Once Wood gets to the Octagon, of course, there’s the business of fighting at hand. Her opponent, Luana Carolina, also spent a year out of competition. Coincidentally, her last fight was in London at UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall where she suffered a knockout loss at the hands – or rather, elbow – of Molly McCann.
Feeling healthy ahead of a fight for the first time in a while, Wood feels like this is a “winnable” fight and is eager to put on a quality performance.
“I'm going to get near her with everything I've got and put on a good performance for the fans,” she said. “Expect some blood, for sure. It's probably going to be my own because my nose always bleeds, but that gets me going. I just want to make it as exciting as I can and be creative the way I know I can.”
“JoJo” is aware of the spot her career is at coming into this contest, and at 37 years old, she has made it clear she only intends to compete for a couple more years at the most. That’s not to say her itch for the sport has dwindled in any way. In fact, her self-imposed hiatus allowed her to recharge and feel the best she has in quite some time days out from a fight.
All that said, she knows the stakes at hand when she makes the walk in the O2 Arena, and she knows herself well enough to not let that command her thoughts and actions once the cage door closes.
“I know the pressure is going to be on,” Wood said. “You kind of push that to the back of your mind and just know that you've got a job to do. All those things really don't matter when you're here in the present.”