British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) middleweight champion Tom Watson was on quite the tear from March of 2008 until May of last year. During that time Watson went 10-1 including wins over Matt Horwich and Murilo “Ninja” Rua, the latter of whom Watson defeated Rua via third round TKO and sent the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt into retirement.
After the bout with Rua, Watson was scheduled to face former two-time UFC welterweight championship contender Frank Trigg and defend his BAMMA middleweight title for the third time. Unfortunately for “Kong” he was beset by a back injury that has kept him out of action for nearly a year, but that is in the past and Watson is looking forward to facing Jack Marshman in his return at BAMMA 9 March 24 at the National Indoor Arena.
Marshman may not have a big name, but the 23-year-old native of Wales is undefeated in ten career fights and will give Watson all he can handle. Fightline.com recently caught up with Watson as he prepared for this bout at Greg Jackson’s gym in New Mexico. Watson discussed his injury, his time with Maximum Fighting Championships and if he sees himself fighting in the states anytime soon.
Fightline: How are you feeling both mentally and physically as you prepare for your title defense against Jack Marshman?
Tom Watson: I’m feeling really good; I’ve been training in the states for over four weeks, working on my wrestling at Greg Jackson’s gym. I’ve been training with him for about five years now. Before I head back to the U.K. I’ll shoot over to Texas and spar with a couple of ex-world champion boxer because that is Marshman’s strength.
FL: Can you tell me about the back injury you suffered?
Watson: I had back surgery about three-and-a-half months ago and I started training about 6 weeks after the operation. I’ve had no real problems, I still have some nerve pain, but that’s to be expected and will last another 8-9 months. Other than that I haven’t had any significant pain. If my back is bothering me I just try and work around it. If I wasn’t 100% I wouldn’t have taken the fight. When I was scheduled to fight Trigg I couldn’t even get off the floor, now I’m able to train and do all the things I couldn’t do before the surgery.
FL: What can you tell me about Jack Marshman?
Watson: He’s 10-0 with 9 finishes and all but one of those finishes have been by TKO. He trains at a gym by where I grew up. He is a good boxer and I think he has an underrated ground game. He just hasn’t had to use it that often because his standup is so good. He is very tough as evidenced in his fight with Carl Noon. In his last fight against Lee Barnes not too many people expected it to go the distance, but he may have underestimated Barnes a bit. He’s very young and has a lot to learn and is rapidly improving.
FL: Is handing him his first loss a significant motivator for you?
Watson: I am looking forward to handing him first loss. He hasn’t tasted defeat yet so I know it’s not going to be easy because he’s going to want to keep his streak going. I would love to be the first guy to put the first loss on his record. When you look at the European middleweight scene there may be other guys more highly regarded, but he’s here for a reason. I’m psyched to be in there against a guy who’s unbeaten and give him his first defeat.
FL: How confident are you going into this bout considering you’ve been out of action for nearly a year?
Watson: Actually my confidence is pretty high. I’m a confident guy and I’m always looking to learn new things. I’m pretty resourceful as well and can find ways to win; I’ve managed to do that for the past three or four years against some very tough fighters. I know I will find a way to go home with a victory.
FL: Who will you have from Jackson’s camp in your corner come fight day?
Watson: There are two other guys who train at Jackson’s fighting on the card with me so there will be a few coaches coming over to help out. I’m not sure what the UFC’s schedule is like and that will dictate whether or not Greg himself will be there. We have the wrestling and striking coaches coming over as well as someone from Tri-Star who’s been in my corner the last five or six fights.
FL: Are you concerned with the state of the BAMMA organization after they canceled this event and lost Nate Marquardt before he had a chance to fight for them?
Watson: It’s really hard to predict the future. The most difficult thing for me is if you look at the middleweight ranking the top 20-30 guys are all in the UFC. It’s very difficult to find good opponents. My last fight against “Ninja” Rua was met with a lot of criticism because people believed he wasn’t a tough enough opponent. It’s difficult to find a guy who isn’t contracted to the UFC.
FL: Have you entertained any offers from Bellator or Zuffa whether it’s in Strikeforce or the UFC?
Watson: After the last fight I had quite a bit of contact with Sean Shelby of Strikeforce. Everything is about timing in this business and the best thing that I can do is go out and win this fight against Marshman on March 24. The more I win the more in demand I will be and from there I can negotiate and see what’s next. Strikeforce has a couple quality middleweights to face Luke Rockhold in Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and if the opportunity presents itself I will have to take it into consideration and see what is in the best interests of my career.
FL: How did you enjoy your two fights under the MFC banner?
Watson: I signed a three-fight deal that was to take place in a one year time period. That year just ran out so as of right now I am not contracted to fight for them any longer. I really loved fighting in the MFC, a lot of people have had some public disputes with Mark Pavelich, but I found him to be a pretty honest guy. If he thought a fighter was doing something wrong he jumps all over them and it may not be the best way to go about business, but it didn’t bother me at all. I’d be more than happy to fight for MFC again.
FL: What will your role be at The MMA Show Live this May in Birmingham?
Watson: I will be running a seminar for them. I’m looking forward to meeting the fans and the other fighters who will be attending. I’ve been to other expos and seminars before and enjoyed them so I can imagine it will be a good time. I know there a lot of guys from the states will be attending including Nate Marquardt and Brendan Schaub.
FL: How about giving us a prediction on how this fight with Marshman ends.
Watson: I’m not really a great fan of making predictions. I’m confident I will finish the fight within the five rounds. I think it’s going to be a tough fight, match-up wise I believe it will be a war a battle of attrition. I’m ready to get back in there and picking up where I left off.