(Tom ‘Kong’ Watson, who is prepared for his MFC debut this weekend)
Tom ‘Kong’ Watson has long been heralded as one of the elite middleweights on the domestic UK scene.
Watson hasn’t tasted defeat since ending up on the wrong end of a split decision to Mark Epstein in Cage Rage back in 2007 and he has since compiled an impressive six-fight win streak against the best the UK has to offer; Pierre Guillet, Denniston Sutherland, John McGuire and John Phillips all falling victim to ever-progressing skillset of ‘Kong’.
Watson’s advocacy of training with the best to become the best has seen him frequent Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico and he has recently relocated to Montreal, Canada to train at Firas Zahabi’s ‘Tristar’. With many of the world’s best fighters treading the mats there, including Georges St-Pierre, Rashad Evans and Jon Jones, his new locale has also offered an interesting challenge in the shape of a multi-fight deal with the MFC promotion.
It’s the time for Watson to take it up to the next level and we caught up with him before he faces the experienced Travis Galbraith in his inaugural MFC bout, with a homecoming bout against UK ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ winner and TUF trialist Alex Reid set for May.
Hey Tom, first off a big congratulations on getting a contract with the MFC. They’re a great promotion doing big things in Canada. How did you feel putting pen to paper with them?
Thanks, it felt really good to sign with such a great organisation. They have some real big plans over the next twelve months and I’m very excited to be part of it. They have a great reputation for looking after their fighters really well and for putting on exciting shows.
They have a particularly strong middleweight division with a lot of UFC vets and top guys like Dean Lister, Thales Leites and Travis Lutter. Is this the main reason that made up your mind or are there other things about the MFC that excite you as a fighter?
A number of reasons contributed to my decision. I feel I am ready for the step up to international level now and MFC have some great fighters in their middleweight division. In addition, I have heard great things about the show and the production and, with the partnership with HDNet, it makes for very exciting times!
In terms of the top guys just mentioned, would you like to get in there with fighters of that calibre straight away or will you be looking for any ‘tune-ups’ before a clash of that size?
I am here and ready to fight whoever Mark Pavelich and the rest of the guys at MFC see fit. I already have confirmation of my first opponent and it’s no easy task, but I will be ready to deliver the knock out of the night and show MFC and Canada that I am here to stay.
The aforementioned fighters are all primarily grapplers. Do you believe the MFC made a conscious decision to bring you in for interesting bouts, style-wise?
I don’t think so. There are a lot of other guys in the division who are good stand-up fighters but I have spent the last year or so working very hard on my BJJ and Wrestling. If whoever I am fighting wants to grapple then fine, let’s do it. And when we’re done with that, if I haven’t tapped you out, let’s get back up and I will knock you out!
Now that you’re full-time in Montreal, was it important to you to sign with someone local?
My deal with MFC is not completely exclusive so I will still be looking to fight in the UK and the rest of the world this year, so location was not the deciding factor. It’s great that my team are close by and there’s not too much travelling involved but I will travel wherever I have to, to get where I want to be.
How much of a hard step was it uprooting from your home country to pursue your MMA career?
It’s tough spending so much time away from my family and friends but I made the decision two years ago that ‘with great sacrifice comes great reward’. I have given up everything to become the best fighter I can and there is no doubt in my mind that it will all pay off in the end.
We understand that your fight with Alex Reid is still on despite this contract. Is that a fight that motivates you?
Yeah the fight is still on, so long as Alex didn’t do too much damage beating up on a snowman [a reference to the series of Celebrity Big Brother]. I am definitely motivated. Alex is a highly underestimated fighter due to his record and last six or seven fights, and I see this as a tough fight. However, right now I have got a lot more business to take care of before Alex Reid enters my mind!
What were your reasons for taking that fight? Was the publicity a factor?
No, not really. The deal which BAMMA and CPL Productions came up with was just too good to turn down, and, with the added bonus of being able to punch Alex Reid in the mouth, I just couldn’t refuse.
You’re fighting in the MFC [this weekend] prior to the Reid bout?
Yeah, I am fighting on 26th February on MFC: Heat XC against Travis Galbraith. I’m hoping to fight again between the Reid fight but right now I’m just concentrating on Galbraith and how I am going to deal with him. I’ve got a little something special for him and I am going to teach him a thing or two about a thing or two!
Looking back at the domestic scene, you’re currently #2 in the UK MMA rankings with Bisping at the top. Do you feel you have achieved everything you can on home turf?
I don’t think there is much more for me to prove in the UK. Bisping is doing good things in the UFC right now and is unreachable, so unless there is a promoter out there with a bucket full of cash ready to give away, I can’t see me fighting another UK guy other than Reid for a while, but let’s wait and see.
A lot of fighters seem content to stay within their comfort zones, solely training and fighting in the UK. What would you say to those people and would you advocate spreading the wings a little, as you have done?
A lot of guys out there have families and lives which they are comfortable and happy with and it’s not possible for them to get up and leave like I did. I am following my dream and I know that to be the best I need to be at Tristar and Jackson’s training with guys better than me everyday. America and Canada still lead the way when it comes to quality of training so this is where I need to be.
Many people thought the fight with Sutherland in your last outing was a close call, was there any part of you that wanted to ‘seal the deal’ or were you happy with the outcome?
Of course I would have liked to finish the fight, but after breaking my hand so early I had to switch my game plan to compensate for that. I was comfortable with the decision but I was a long way from being satisfied with my performance. There will always be those out there who thought I lost but after watching the fight back in full a few times, I don’t think it was as close as it was made out to be and the judges agreed which is all that counts.
What are your ultimate goals for 2010, especially since you’re starting a new chapter in your career fighting internationally?
First things first, I want to make a big impact with MFC and prove I deserve my place there. As for the rest of 2010, I want to keep getting better, keep fighting and let all the top middleweights out there know that I am coming for them. Making some money wouldn’t be a bad thing this year either!
Have you been contacted by the other, larger organisations i.e. UFC, Strikeforce or even those in Japan?
I had a few good offers towards the end of last year from some big organisations but I really feel that MFC is where I want to lay my hat. As for the future, who knows, but what I do know is Travis Galbraith better be ready come the end of February because he is going to see the baddest Kong yet! I am going to make my mark starting with him and show that I am not just there to make the numbers up.
Finally, any last words of wisdom for the fans and readers? Shout outs?
I just want to thank all my friends and family who have supported me this far, my loyal sponsors Tapout, VAS and CNP Professional – without them I would not be where I am. Roll on the 26th of February…
Watson is clearly taking the right steps to improve himself as a fighter and build his career. With his international aspirations now coming to fruition, big things are in store in 2010 for ‘Kong’.
Outgrowing the domestic scene is a positive sign. More and more fighters are proving the the UK is a breeding ground for great fighters. Hopefully Watson will prove that he can hang with the middleweight elite, starting this weekend when he takes on Travis Galbraith in MFC.
Keep your eye on his progression. In Tom’s words, “exciting times”.