Behind the Fight
At every UFC weigh-in, Joe Rogan lovingly calls Burt Watson “the babysitter to the stars.” As the UFC’s site coordinator, he is responsible for ensuring fi ght week goes smoothly from the time the fighters arrive to the time they leave. For over a decade, the 63-year-old Watson has seen it all, but as long as every event goes off without a hitch in the eyes of the paying public, he’s done his job.
Since you started with the UFC in 2001, you’ve only missed three events, including one this past June in New Jersey because you were already in Brazil for UFC 147. How does that work?
Over the years, I have always worked to train guys and give them the knowledge of how I do things and how I think things should be done. In a situation when I’m not there, they can probably operate on their own, but I don’t want them to ever do a show without me. I love what I do.
After all the shows that you’ve been a part of, what event stands out?
UFC 100 sticks out because it was one hundred, but any time we travel outside the country, it sticks out because it’s different. It’s a new and different culture. When we went to Abu Dhabi, I got there on a Tuesday, and the venue where the fight was going to be held wasn’t completed. I looked around with my mouth open and said, ‘Wow, is this where we’re going to do an event?’ Before my eyes, I saw that thing develop in three days. We did weigh-ins at a mall. I had to put all the guys in a 10 by 10 room and make it work. I knew that in Abu Dhabi there was a situation where—culturally—it was not the best thing to get undressed in public. I was nervous about a guy not making weight and having to drop his clothes. The whole thing was crazy and pretty special.
What’s the toughest part of the process?
The toughest day is the weigh-ins, where if you have 10 fights, 20 guys have to make weight. The other is fight night when the guys are getting ready. Everyone in that back area has flipped the switch to his fighting persona. When I see that and know that, my switch flips to another level. I try to get in their heads without getting in their heads and get into their hearts without getting into their hearts. I need to get them from the dressing room to the cage without fear of losing and without fear of not being at their best.
How have you adjusted to the UFC having multiple events every month?
When you do four shows in five weeks, it’s tough, but you just don’t think about it. It has to be done, and I do it. I put on the mindset of how tough it is for those fighters who get in the cage and either give an ass whoopin’ or take one, but they do it. I give myself the same mindset because of my upbringing and the Marine Corps. There was never such a thing as ‘I can’t.’ The only time it bothers me is when I stop, because I have time to get tired and think about that stuff. But I know I have to start up again, and once I get going? It’s gravy, baby.
Any travel tips that you’ve picked up?
In all these years, I have not learned how to not pack like I’m going on a Caribbean cruise for three people. It’s a waste, and most of the time, I’m wearing UFC gear. Packing and unpacking is the worst part of the entire stretch of running from place to place and situation to situation.
When the work is over after event night, how do you relax?
I have a Heineken and two shots of Grand Marnier, and I go to bed.