How does it feel to fall short of a goal to have everything taken away that you worked your entire life to achieve? The fighting journey seemed like it had reached a heartbreaking end for Kyle Watson, in his last fight appearance, losing by TKO at CWFC- Fight Nights 3. Some fighter’s mental stability breaks when faced with the hardships of losing. Their ambition becomes bleak, and interest fades away, thus closing the chapter to their life in MMA. For other fighters, such as Watson, it marks the opening of a new motivating chapter in the fight world.
In the final installment of the series (Read Part 1 here), Watson shares the contents of where life has taken him after retiring from MMA competition. Architect, mentor, and the family man; Watson now fights for others, which is all documented in this interview with MYMMANEWS.
You have been regarded as one of the best instructors from the Midwest. Around the time of your UFC run, you also began to focus on opening your MMA academy. Share with us the process and the overall purpose of opening your academy?
Kyle Watson: I always knew that the shelf-life of a good fighter is very short, much less a mediocre one. I knew that I had to have a Plan B, and I also knew that I was passionate about teaching since I had already been coaching during most of my fighting career. However, I was always teaching someone else. Having had past managerial roles that focused on customer service, I knew that I could run a business better and put quality first. As my fighting career was winding down, I decided to make the jump and open up my own school. I paid close attention to successful school owners to see what they were doing, so I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I started small (2,600 sq/ft.) with the plan to move only if I was bursting at the seams. It didn’t take long, and I was moving into a 6,000 sq./ft. facility. I continued to build the business and decided the next step was to own my own place where I could continue to grow and control my own destiny, instead of leasing. I bought and rehabbed a 10,000+sq/ft. The facility where we have currently been for the last two years. It was one of the best decisions I could have made.
Today, your academy is one of the top schools in the Midwest. What do you feel has kept the gym flourishing, and although you have previous experience as an instructor in other settings, how do you take on the challenge of aiding others with their goals?
Kyle Watson: I think one of the things that have led to the success of the gym is that I continually try to put myself in the shoes of a new student and try to see how I can enhance their user experience. I’m always reinvesting in the gym to improve the quality and the instruction. I also have a relentless work ethic and drive to create a legacy. And whether it’s competing, goal setting, or mentoring others, I am always trying to lead by example. I believe this has fostered a team-building environment that is very welcoming and encourages growth.
What are some of the success stories you have produced from your gym?
Kyle Watson: We have had many success stories, which continually confirm that I was meant to do this. Some of these include many people losing 20-100 pounds. Some people with anxiety issues have become more confident and better able to cope with their emotions and mental state. I have had several people tell me they are better husbands and fathers because of the outlet the gym provides. There are many others, but I am so grateful that I get to help people from all walks of life live out our motto daily, “The Art of Improvement.”
One can only assume you have many other experiences that Martial Arts have given you from a teaching and training standpoint.
Kyle Watson: I am fortunate that Martial Arts have taken me all over the world, and with it, I have had many unique experiences. I’ve had the privilege of cornering hundreds of people from a fight set up in a cornfield in Indiana, to the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, where Pride was held. I’ve been able to train/compete in Brazil, the Middle East, as well as teach seminars overseas like in the UK.
You also are an instructor off-the-mat, becoming a Mentor/Operation Manager for Kaplan, aiding students with their academic pursuits. Describe your approach with assisting students in this field?
Kyle Watson: This provided me with invaluable experience in many areas that are necessary to succeed in this business. I had to sell academic programs to students (getting sales experience). Most importantly, I was in charge of maintaining exceptional customer service, keeping the quality of instruction high, operating a clean, safe learning environment, and working on my communication skills. And overall, I had the task of helping students improve and reach goals. I believe this experience, combined with my martial arts journey, provided me with a unique advantage in starting a martial arts academy.
Incredible MMA story, mentor, family man, is there anything left that Kyle Watson needs to accomplish?
Kyle Watson: I still have a great deal to accomplish. I am a goal setter and a grinder. It’s the way God designed me. My brain is always like, “what’s next?” I want to continue to improve my current academy and maximize its efficiency and impact. I also own a real estate business, acquiring and managing rental properties. With that, I would like to add several properties to my portfolio in the next few years. I would also like to squeeze in as much family time as possible. My wife and son are everything to me and I love to be around them as much as possible. And last but not least, I want to create a legacy of improving people’s lives and by example, teach my son the importance of being a good man and helping others.