Tom Watson is a former UFC middleweight and a former middleweight champion in the BAMMA promotion, and currently has a 17-9 pro record. Tom has kindly given up his time to give me an exclusive interview.
Q: Before you turned to MMA you had an extensive amateur boxing background, why did you turn to MMA?
A: I was just looking for a way to test myself as a complete fighter. At the time I had aspirations to turn professional in boxing but was looking to win the ABA’s in order to attract a top promoter so MMA was a way I could garner more experience for ring experience without just going pro and potentially affecting my record.
Q: In the early days how hard was it financially, did you have to hold down a job to support your fledgling MMA career?
A: It was actually pretty easy for me because I found myself fighting on Cage Rage after only a few months of training. Due to an injury Cage Rage offered me a five fight deal with the minimum of £1500 a fight as I was accepting a fight against Matsui on only 3 days notice.
Q: I think it’s fair to say you came to prominence when you fought and beat Alex Reid in a good tough fight. What are your memories of that fight and do you have respect for Reid as a fighter?
A: That fight is the only time I’ve ever not wanted to be in a cage fighting. BAMMA had changed the fight date to be just over a week after fighting Jesse Taylor in Canada on the West Coast. Having lost a decision there i had not prepared at all to fight Reid and ending up flying back and just making weight. Reid had trained for around 9 months for the fight spending everything financially and bringing in top training to beat me. I respect him as a fighter with a never say die attitude. He may not be as skilled as other fighters but you have to kill him to beat him if his mind is right. See his fight with Lee Murray or me to exemplify that
Q: You competed in BAMMA and was that organisations first ever Middleweight Champion, you eventually got a UFC contract, was the UFC where you always wanted to ply your trade?
A: I really wanted to fight in Pride. I had 2 scheduled fights fall through in Japan and it still disappoints me.
Q: You won 2 out of your 7 fights in the UFC before being released, what’s your overall experience of being in the UFC, any regrets?
A: No regrets. I never felt out of my depth in the UFC. I fought World Champion grapplers, guys who had fought for the title in their own country and was never in danger of being knocked out or submitted. I only lost due to how judges score the fights and the fact I don’t have any regard for tactically winning a fight. Watch any of my UFC fights and I just march forward, only the time limit stopped me from breaking down every single guy I faced.
Q: You haven’t fought since 2015, have you officially retired or is the door always open for a return to MMA?
A: I haven’t retired but I’ve been competing for too long to take fights for the money that is served at the contracts table.
Q: What’s your proudest moment in MMA and your biggest regret from your time in the sport?
A: My proudest moment is the fact that as soon as i actually started training full time I was never submitted or knocked out. Regrets is for guys that care about the past.
Q: What you doing now to earn a living and do you miss MMA?
A: I have currently just finished a masters degree and I am working on a few business interests. I still train other people and enjoy studying martial arts.
Q: What did you make of Mayweather v McGregor, and what’s your take on McGregor’s supposed stamina issues and what do you think the problem is?
A: It was obvious to the result given the ruleset, but I was slightly surprised Floyd didnt gamble and finish the fight earlier. McGregor is just a fast twitch power house that will aways struggle in later points of fights. Its the price of being a huge knockout fighter.
Q: What one thing would you change in MMA?
A: Have the judges watch the fight on a TV screen in 3 silent rooms at the higher levels.
(Every time I ask the last question I get a different answer)
Thank you so much for the interview Tom, and all the best for the future.