by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Although the U.K. has been producing a lot of solid MMA fighters of late through tough home grown camps such as the Roughhouse, Wolfslair, London Shoot, et all; there are fighters who still never managed to find a suitable home in England. One such fighter is Tom “Kong” Watson and he all but moved over to New Mexico in search of finding such a place.
“I have been training at Greg Jackson’s for ages now and I feel it really suits me well. The guys push me hard and I am always learning new tricks,” explains the middleweight prospect ahead of his participation in the BAMMA tournament this weekend.
“I have been training out there for three months leading up to this fight, but also staying active with submission tournaments, Muay Thai and boxing matches, as well. It keeps me active as I haven’t fought MMA in about seven months”
To most that would seem like a lifetime, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Originally scheduled to face Shooters MMA BJJ instructor August Warren over in a Swedish show, his opponent pulled out and the bout was cancelled. Only Warren actually ended up fighting on the show in the end. Still, Watson amused himself by coming third in both the Gi and no-Gi Grappler’s Quest event, losing on an advantage in the semi-finals, but pulling out five submission victories on the way.
“It’s quite funny that people think I don’t even grapple, yet I have a jiu-jitsu natural in me when I need it. I like to fight aggressively and bang, but it’s all about learning a complete game – that is the key to evolving,” he explains, adding that even the top-flight submission guys are working on their striking.
“Take Demian Maia for example, his submission game is awesome, but he is still working on his striking. You have to be well rounded because there will come a time in a fight where you can’t take someone down. What do you do then?”
It’s this approach to mixed martial arts that has Watson on a continual growth curve. When he is in the States he mixes things up at Jackson’s, but also trains twice a week at Gracie Barra. When he comes over to the U.K., he pretty much lives out of his vehicle, travelling up and down the country, training anywhere that will have him. Last time our paths crossed, he was working on strength and conditioning at the Rough House with Paul Daley and Sunny Dholakia.
“The thing is that in the U.K. there is so many pro fighters that still have to hold down full time jobs, there just isn’t the means to train the way I can in America. Most of the pro fighters have to work to keep their families afloat, but here, of 40 fighters that train in the Pro sessions, about 25 of them don’t work and are always available.”
So with training all sorted, Watson is back in the U.K. for a run at the BAMMA middleweight title, but to get there he is set to clash with John Maguire for top bragging slots at the sharp end of the U.K.’s top ten rankings.
“I only want to fight people who are ranked highly, credible challenges, and Maguire is that. He is probably the best guy at middleweight now fighting domestically. Michael Bisping is in the UFC, Zelg Galesic in Japan, and Matt Ewin is retired. In my mind there is only Maguire and Paul Cahoon left”
And the fight with Maguire will play out how?
“I know exactly what he is going to do: try and put me against the fence. I think he believes he is the superior grappler, but although his game is tight, he likes to control people from top position and grind out a decision.
“I think that this is a step up for him, of the people he has fought, six of them were 0-1, then Jake Bostwick and Aryan Gambaryan, but he struggled against Chris Rice. I think it will be a good fight in any case, as he always seems keen. He is small for a middleweight, but if you’re not losing then why cut?”
Assessments of Maguire being immediate given the plan of action this weekend, what does he think of Denniston Sutherland and John Phillips in the other bracket?
“I think Denniston will be smart and beat Phillips, at least I hope so, as I have already fought Phillips once before. Denniston is a tough guy who was winning fights at heavyweight!”
So what does destiny hold for Tom Watson after this weekend?
“I am hoping to get onto a major show soon. I am realistic about my skills and at the moment I wouldn’t want to be in the UFC; I still have a lot to learn. When I go there I want to be able to mix it with the top guys straight away. At the moment, I know that I am not ready for guys like Anderson Silva and Demian Maia.”
Quite a refreshing view from a fighter’s perspective, especially given that it is inherent in their nature to feel as though they can topple anyone given the chance. Self-belief is paramount in this sport.
“I have to be ready for my chances. I feel that I am ready to make a step up, be it in Affliction, Strikeforce, or Japan, but I am still learning my craft. You have to be ready for the caliber of fights the UFC can throw at you. Take Dan Hardy for example; I think he is the only one who actually had the right amount of experience before heading there and look what he has achieved.”