An Interview With MMA Star Tom Watson
By Emma J Bramford
“Cage Warriors is the show where I’m going to make my comeback and win the welterweight title.” – Tom ‘Kong’ Watson
Born and raised in Southampton, England, Tom Watson first started in combat sports at the age of 16, when he took up boxing. A three-time ABA Southern Counties Champion and being awarded ‘Amateur boxing standout of the year’ in 2006 was his introduction into mixed martial arts.
Watson made his professional mixed martial arts debut on 19th February 2006 for a local show at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort in London. On ‘ZT Fight Night 1’ where he won via Guillotine choke in 71 seconds, he returned on the show’s second instalment on June 25th the same year where he won via decision.
In 2007, Watson competed in five fights for UK promotion Cage Rage gaining a record of two wins and three losses. From 2008 – 2012 Watson fought a further twelve times for promotions Cage Rage, AFC, UCMMA (formerly Cage Rage), MFC and BAMMA. With his sole loss to Jesse Taylor at MFC 26, Watson picked up the inaugural UCMMA middleweight title along with the BAMMA middleweight title when he fought Jack Marshman at BAMMA 9.
With news that Watson has signed to elite European promotion Cage Warriors and will be facing Aaron ‘King’ Khalid at Cage Warriors 104 on April 27th, 2019 in Cardiff, it was only fitting that I should re-introduce ‘Kong’ to the world.
You’d be forgiven if you are not familiar with Tom ‘Kong’ Watson as of late, with his last competitive fight being on August 8th, 2015 for the UFC. Spending three years with the world’s number one promotion in the UFC, Watson had two wins and five losses (with those losses coming by way of decisions) for the UFC taking his overall record to 17-9.
Watson was not done with competing and was still actively seeking opportunities to fight in the UFC. Having no success, Watson was then released by the UFC and continued to explore roles outside of the UFC, doing some commentary jobs here and there. It was at this point that promotion BAMMA contacted Watson regarding doing some presenting and commentary jobs for them.
They also wanted Watson (who had been with BAMMA since their first event up until he was signed to the UFC) to compete again for them. This news was music to Watson’s ears as he had not hung up his gloves and retired as many people thought due to his 3-year absence from the sport.
Unfortunately, due to issues out of Watson’s control BAMMA were no longer a viable option as a promotion to make his long-awaited come back on. Instead, elite European promotion Cage Warriors signed Watson in the welterweight division (Watson previously competed in the middleweight division) in January of 2019.
Watson trains predominately at his state of the gym called ‘Analysis’ which is located right next to him in Southampton, and with the occasional odd trip back to California to train. Watson is already preparing hard for his upcoming bout for his Cage Warriors debut.
Deciding to cut down to welterweight was an easy decision for Watson. He stated that:
“Quite a few people had told me that I should have been a welterweight when I competed in the UFC as I never really cut any weight. When I look back on my career I do wonder if 170lb was the weight, I should have been competing at, so this is an attempt to test out that theory.”
Not content with winning a UCMMA (formally known as Cage Rage) and BAMMA title, Watson has made it very clear that the aim is to win the Cage Warriors welterweight title stating:
“I’m not coming here to have a bit of fun or have a couple of fights. I’m coming here to pick up another title to add to the two other titles I have held. I don’t know if there is anybody that has all of those titles, so that is my goal.”
With his first love being boxing Watson is in the middle of applying of getting his trainers license as he has a few guys who are looking to make their pro boxing debut so he can be in their corner.
With the legalisation of Bare Knuckle Boxing, Watson has a couple of guys that he trains. Watson stated:
“It is not something that interests me, I do like the idea of fighting without gloves more than with gloves, I think gloves are probably less safe, and bare-knuckle is safer. It’s a big misconception that people think Bare Knuckle Boxing is more dangerous. I’d say it is a lot safer as you can’t do much damage as you break your hands more and you don’t have this protection and mould on your fist to keep punching the shots away. I will say though on bare-knuckle when they wear the wraps; I think it’s like wearing gloves and its worse, so to me, bare-knuckle boxing should be basically without wraps or anything.”
Going back to his time with the UFC Watson stated:
“I competed against the best in the world, and I have never got finished by any of them, only losing by decisions. Quite a few were contentious decisions at best for me. Fighting is fighting and if you are losing a decision sport contest– well I’ve said it before, in the UFC I don’t really see that as losing, just the system and the setup. For instance, if we changed the UFC fight to a no time limit would have I lost any of those fights? I doubt it. It is what it is, that’s the rules you play by. Strategy wise I probably didn’t fight too smart. If you look at the earnings of the people in the UFC, I’m still relatively high up there, and I didn’t win many fights, so, on that basis, well it was smart – possibly.”
For those of you that have followed Watson’s career from the beginning, you will recall Watson enters the cage wearing a gorilla mask, hence why he has the nickname ‘Kong.’
As Watson made his last appearance for the UFC in 2015, a new British fighter in the name of Darren ‘The Gorilla’ Till was making his debut for the promotion.
“I’m not bothered by Darren Till” Watson states, “I believe Dan Hardy gave him the nickname ‘Gorilla’, it is what it is. I think everyone knows ‘Kong’ more than Darren Till’s ‘The Gorilla.’
“Darren Till is a great fighter, but I don’t think he is synonymous with a Gorilla.”
“Cage Warriors is the show where I’m going to make my comeback and win the welterweight title.”
With his debut for his Cage Warriors bout being dubbed ‘King’ vs ‘Kong’, there will only one way to find out if this is the start of a resurgence for Tom ‘Kong’ Watson by tuning into Cage Warriors 104 on April 27th live on UFC Fight Pass.