"I think it’s a great fight from a stylistic perspective. On paper at least, I can see this fight turning into an absolute war on the feet." - Tom Watson
With the chaotic grind required of those in the fight business, it can be easy to forget that things exist outside of that particular sphere. Every element of a fighter’s journey connects to create an all-encompassing world where everything done, projected and set in motion feeds in to where a fighter hopes to find his or herself or the goals they are attempting to accomplish. It is all a very serious business and a process that can overwhelm even the most headstrong individuals.
Tom Watson certainly understands the pressures that come both inside and outside of the Octagon. Yet, for a man who has spent his life doling out punishment and taking his fair share in the arena of combat, “Kong” has long since recognized there is a world going on outside of the realm where competitors battle under the bright lights for paychecks. And rightfully so, as experience typically dictates growth, and the Englishman is well-equipped in the experience department.
The 32-year-old Southampton native made his name slugging it out with the opposition on his native soil, but he’s traveled the world in search of finding skills to add to his game. Furthermore, during his journey through mixed martial arts, he’s traversed the globe and worked with some of the greatest strategic minds in the sport. During those sessions and the travels it took to reach those places, Watson has come to appreciate the bigger world outside of fighting. And that type of recognition helps him deal with the adversity he faces both inside and outside of the Octagon.
When the cage door closes, Watson is all hammers and ruckus as he does his best to turn the tilt into a battle of wills. There is no doubting his love for a good row, but his time under the UFC banner hasn’t worked out as he had initially hoped, as he’s been turned back in three of his four showings inside the Octagon.
This will create a certain amount of pressure when he steps in to welcome Sam Alvey to the sport’s biggest stage at UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Saint Preux this Saturday night. Yet, all Watson has to do to alleviate the immediate sense of pressure is to look at life’s bigger picture, and suddenly the fight doesn’t carry as much “do or die” sway as it once did.
“Pressure is what you put on yourself,” Watson said. “A lot of people get carried away. There is a huge amount of time in the span of someone’s life that carries far more importance than what someone is dealing with going into a fight. For me at this time, fighting is something that pays bills for me and has my focus at this time. But it is not life. It is just the thing I am doing right now. Some workers invest passion and dedication into a project for decades and still don’t see the progress they’ve made.
“You start at one end of the process and this Saturday night, there will be a fight at the other end. The days between now and then will all lead up to that fight. And when that time arrives, rest assured I’m going to give it all I have.”
While the combat-savvy veteran has been dealt back-to-back losses in his two most recent showings, Watson will be looking to turn things around in a big way against Alvey. The Ultimate Fighter season 16 alum will be looking to establish his place on the UFC roster, while the Southern California transplant will most likely be battling to keep his place in the 185-pound deck.
It is an important fight for both men and Watson believes it has the all proper elements to make their tilt an action-packed affair. That said, he’s also well aware of the grappling-heavy camp where “Smiling Sam” has done his training camp for the fight and he’ll be prepared to fend off Alvey’s takedown game should it make an appearance on Saturday night.
“I think it’s a great fight from a stylistic perspective,” Watson said. “On paper at least, I can see this fight turning into an absolute war on the feet. He’s a tough guy and is very heavy-handed. I’ve watched all his fights and he’s going to come forward and be throwing the entire time. I’ve watched some of his fights where he’s scored knockouts in the later rounds and that definitely means he can be dangerous throughout. That said, he’s coming out of Team Quest and this is his first fight in the UFC so I imagine they are going to have some strategy, but we’ll see what happens when we get in there.
“For me, I think this sport is exciting because of the wrestling and grappling. Otherwise, we would be watching kickboxing. But when you look at collegiate wrestling or international wrestling, there are points for escapes when that isn’t the case in MMA. Since I’ve come to the UFC I’ve fought four guys who have predominantly tried to win the fight by using their wrestling. I’m not sure if my next opponent will attempt to take that route, but I’ll be ready if he tries.”
While there is no way to predict what will go down when two fighters step inside the Octagon to handle business, a fighter like Watson provides about as much of a guarantee as can be found in a sport as chaotic as mixed martial arts. Victory can be claimed in various ways and fashions. It can come violently and abruptly or by a slow and grinding attack that is carried out over a 15-minute affair. Regardless of how a fight is brought to a close, winning the bout is undoubtedly the most important aspect for everyone involved.
Yet, for a fighter like Watson who embraces the entertainment side of the sport, keeping the passionate fan base happy is also a crucial element in the equation. Watson understands it is the fans who keep the MMA world in the spotlight and he always goes out to do his part in making their ticket purchase worthwhile.
“I think the big thing that gets lost is that at the end of the day, the most important thing is keeping the fans happy,” Watson said. “If those people aren’t happy, they are not going to watch fights and people aren’t going to get paid. If people don’t want to watch the UFC there isn’t going to be as much money in it. I want to go out there and give them a show.”