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Joanne Wood expects Rose Namajunas to struggle at flyweight: ‘I don’t know why she’s coming up’

“I feel like she will struggle because I know I’ve been in there with these girls and they are like so much bigger than the Strawweights.”

Joanne Wood has been a staple at 115 and 125 pounds throughout her 11-year mixed martial arts (MMA) career.

As one of the most popular Scottish fighters ever, if not the most popular, Wood burst onto the scene by establishing herself in the Strawweight division. Strong performances in Invicta Fighting Championship and Cage Warriors led the then-undefeated 8-0 “Dr. Kneevil” to a stint on The Ultimate Fighter 20 (TUF) in 2014.

Wood won her eliminator bout by majority decision against Emily Kagan, advancing to the quarter-finals and propelling her one step closer to becoming the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion at 115 pounds. Unfortunately for Wood, the future two-time titlist, Rose Namajunas, halted her run with a second round kimura. Once in UFC, Wood fought three more times at Strawweight before permanently moving to Flyweight. Eight years later and Namajunas is about to follow in Wood’s footsteps when making her divisional debut against Manon Fiorot at UFC Paris in Sept. 2023.

“I feel like she will struggle because I know I’ve been in there with these girls and they are like so much bigger than the Strawweights,” Wood told MMA Mania. “In the past, I have struggled with that, but Rose is a completely different fighter to me (laughs).

“I was shocked at that [news],” she continued. “I don’t know why she’s coming up, but she’s made that decision and I’m sure she’ll go with it and walk with it.”

Namajunas’ jump up in weight comes after she dropped the Strawweight title to the aforementioned TUF 20 season’s winner, Carla Esparza, in May 2022. Esparza coincidentally defeated Namajunas in the TUF 20 Finals.

The inevitable addition of “Thug” to the division will only further bolster the growing talent pool seen in recent years. Wood likely would have fought at Flyweight sooner had the promotion created the division upon her initial arrival. Having witnessed things play out through the years, 2023 has proven more exciting than ever for the weight class.

“As far as the division itself, it’s crazy to see because when I was coming up I was like, ‘Yep, just watch. In five years, this is gonna be the division,’” Wood said. “Once it kind of settled, everyone was moving up, everyone was moving down. I feel like now we’re in contention with strawweight of being very, very exciting. It’s just great to see it all resolve, everyone find their weight and find all these up-and-comers as well. It’s great, it’s exciting and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Wood, 37, returned from a brief year off to heal some injuries after her March 2022 defeat to the now-champion, Alexa Grasso. Luana Carolina welcomed back the “Bad Mofo” at UFC 286 in March 2023, falling short via a split decision and helping get Wood back in the win column.

The next fight will be a possible crossroads of sorts for the Scottish veteran. Wood takes on Priscila Cachoeira at UFC 291 on July 29, 2023, in what will be the last fight on her UFC contract. At this stage, what she wants to do afterward is ultimately at her discretion.

“I’m excited this kind of fight plays into my game, I feel very well,” Wood said. “I know the fans will love it. Her style is like she’s coming to throw that right hand and land that right hand and that’s perfect. I love that.

“Looking at a technical stance coming from my Muay Thai background, counter and capitalize on that with my kicks and blah, blah, blah,” she added. “The other side of me is like, ‘Man, I just like getting in there and getting bloody.’ I know she’s probably gonna land one, my nose is gonna bleed, but I don’t care. So, it’s gonna bring out that discipline side but also that, ‘You know what? We’re just in a fight.’”

UFC has no current plans to go back to Glasgow, Scotland. If they do, however, Wood will jump at the opportunity for what could make for an ideal (eventual) retirement before turning 40 in December 2025.

“That would be the nail in the coffin, the cherry on top,” Wood laughed. “The nail in the coffin doesn’t sound very good but yeah. We’ll go with the cherry on top.”

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