LEWISTON, Maine — Ray “All Business” Wood doesn’t see a mere opponent standing across the cage from him when he visualizes an upcoming mixed martial arts bout.
“Sitting in the hotel room, all kinds of stuff is running through my head,” said the former Bucksport High School football, wrestling and baseball standout. “You always picture this dragon across the cage, this big, fire-breathing dragon, but you hit him a few times and feel him out and he turns into a unicorn and it’s not so scary.”
Such stage fright has not prevented Wood, who trains at Young’s MMA in Bangor, from getting off to a strong start in the professional ranks.
Wood improved his record to 3-0 on Saturday night with a second-round submission victory over Ahsan Abdullah of Team Bombsquad in upstate New York during the NEF VII card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Wood used an armbar to secure the victory after being on the counterattack for much of the match as Abdullah scored early takedowns in both rounds.
It was a tactic that had been used successfully by one of Abdullah’s teammates, Shane Manley, while handing Wood his only loss in five amateur fights in April 14, 2012, though the 145-pound Wood was competing up at a catchweight of 150 pounds that night against Manley, who was coming down from 155 pounds.
And it’s part of the learning process that remains for Wood as he pursues big MMA goals.
“I still wasn’t able to stop (Abdullah’s) takedowns,” said Wood, who will turn 24 in June. “That’s something I still need to work on. We need to do some more cross-training and get some bigger guys and wrestlers to beat on me some more.”
Still, Wood already has garnered considerable respect within the Northeast MMA circuit, based largely on his steady improvement since turning professional last fall.
“My striking and my jitz [jujitsu] game has come a long way,” he said. “I’ve learned to tighten that up, to not be so spastic with it and slow it down and hold my positions.
“I’ve been really working my stand-up, my angles and setting up my kicks, and I think I displayed that really well. You can’t complain about a win.”
Wood is looking forward to fighting on New England Fights’ Summer Fight Night card scheduled for Friday, July 12 at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor.
“I’m booked to fight on the Bangor card already, and that should draw a huge crowd for me,” he said. “I think that will be great, not only for me but for Young’s MMA in showing what Bangor’s all about.”
Wood hopes continued success will open create even more opportunities, understanding that like any other pro sport MMA is a performance-based industry.
“The key is to keep winning and putting on great performances,” he said. “I have a pretty good fan base and a lot of promotions know me by name now and have seen me fight. I think I put on exciting performances and I think I have a unique style that’s not just your everyday fighter who throws kicks and punches. I like to have my own style, something real exciting that’s worth someone taking a chance on in terms of getting to the next level.”
And with MMA fighters routinely competing into their mid- and late 30s, Wood believes there’s plenty of time for him to realize his aspirations of reaching the highest level of his chosen sport.
“Honestly I’d love to make it to the UFC, I’d love to make it to the big show,” he said. “It’s such a huge dream of mine, and sometimes it seems far-fetched but I really feel I belong in this sport and that I was put on this Earth to do this. I feel more and more comfortable every time I go in there.
“Before a fight I’m all scared and worried, but as soon as I step into that cage everything goes away. I feel at peace in the cage.”