After four years powering through the best the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) has to offer, Tom ‘Kong’ Watson has made his long awaited switch to UFC, where he will mark his arrival with a debut fight against Brad Tavares at Fuel 5 in September. Watson will be back in the UK to take on Tavares at the Nottingham show, as he bids to resume his ascension up the middleweight ladder.
Watson brought his time at BAMMA to a typically emphatic close last March, where he defeated Jack Marshman with a second round TKO at BAMMA 9 to retain his middleweight title, handing Marshman his first defeat in the process. You could say it gave Tom the chance to leave the organisation on a high, but with his record of 11 victories in his last 12 fights - the only blemish being a loss on points to Jesse Taylor in 2010 - the Southampton-born fighter has been enjoying the adulation of being a winner for a long time.
The step up from BAMMA to UFC can be seen as a natural progression for Tom, who is as ever, purely focused on fighting, and anticipates the increased competition. “For me, an organisation is an organisation, and I’ve always been the same, I get told by my manager where and who to fight,” Tom said. “I’ve always wanted to fight in the UFC, they’re the big organisation, that’s where you go for the biggest fights and where you go to earn the most money. Of course, it’s always been my aim [to fight in UFC], but I fight were I’m told to fight. That’s all I’m interested in.”
Regarded as one of the best British middleweights on the scene, Tom is no stranger to a big fight, with notable wins over Murilo Rua and Travis Galbraith already under his belt. Not blinded by the constant upheaval in rankings in the division, the 30-year-old’s sole intention is to test himself against the best the division and the UFC has to offer. “I’m there for the competition, I don’t care who it is, or when it is,” he continued. “I’m not concerned with rankings, I never have been, I just want to get in there and do my best and test myself and work my way up. I want to fight the best people possible, which is part of the reason we moved to the UFC, I want to fight the best guys in the division, and whoever the UFC decide on, that’s who’ll I’ll fight.”
Tom’s arrival at UFC brings the best British MMA has to offer in the middleweight division together in the same organisation, and comes to define the rise in standards of UK fighters. While Tom remains focused on fighting anyone his management team and UFC decide to put in front of him, murmurings of potential all-British clash with Michael Bisping cannot be helped. But aware of what he needs to do as a UFC debutant, the middleweight knows that potential fight will be something that remains far off on the horizon, for now.
“He’s one of the top ten fighters in the world, I would love to take a fight against Michael Bisping. I’m not worried, I’ll fight whoever. That would be a huge fight, but right now, Michael Bisping wouldn’t have anything to gain by that fight. We will have to wait and see.”
The UFC do not have to do much to increase the relentless excitement generated by Watson’s move to the organisation, and a debut fight in his home country will help drive the already fervent anticipation of the UK’s passionate fan base. “I love fighting in the UK, I’ve had my last four or five fights in the UK, and I always get a huge amount of support. If I could have picked a fight anywhere for my first UFC fight it would have been the UK,” Tom added.
Home advantage won’t matter much when up against Tavares, he added. 24-year-old Tavares boasts a record of eight wins and just one loss, and is himself coming off a victory, a hard-fought decision win over Dongi Yang at UFC on Fuel TV 3 back in May. “Me and Tavares are going to get into the octagon and fight, it doesn’t matter if it’s the UK, US, Brazil or wherever, a fight is a fight. I don’t think Tavares fighting outside the is going to have much of an effect, wherever he is he’s going bring a tough fight and I think its going to a fantastic.”
Tom Watson is a Lonsdale sponsored fighter. For more information go to www.lonsdale.com