An inspiring vision of a promising future can empower actions to bring that image into existence. Many entrants who initially start training in MMA are inspired to learn new skills that can help them grow physically and mentally. Progressively, goals soon manifest, as one aims to hover over their peers, hoping to reach elite level status in their sport. The journey of UFC veteran Kyle Watson is a story of grit and passion that comes with one’s purpose and role as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
In Part one of a two-part series, Watson reflects on his journey as a competitor in the fight world. The sparking interest, the rise, and the fall are all documented in this interview courtesy of MYMMANEWS.
In today’s era, many people are inspired to become MMA fighters because of the growing popularity of televised sport. You, however, knew nothing about MMA when you started back in the early 2000s. Looking back, what was the element that attracted you to being committed to becoming an MMA fighter?
Kyle Watson: At the time when I was starting my MMA journey, the glamour wasn’t there yet, and the seeming rock star status of some fighters hadn’t materialized at that point. My drive was different. I was always competitive with sports and was always interested in martial arts growing up. After stoking the fire for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and being inspired by earlier UFC’s, I just wanted to test what I was learning and see if I could apply it in a more realistic setting. So I figured, what better way to see if your jiu-jitsu works than trying to apply it while someone is trying to punch you in the face. I was driven by this and my competitive nature overall.
It clearly showed you committed to your new-found hobby; so much so, you paid $40 to participate in your first MMA fight?
Kyle Watson: Back then, the MMA opportunities were few and far between. Today people have the luxury of viewing or participating in a local fight almost every weekend. Back then, you would have to drive long distances and wait months for shows to pop up. I was pretty active on some fight forums and saw that UFC legend and pioneer Dan “The Beast” Severn was looking for fighters for a small show in Fort Wayne, IN. I thought this was my opportunity. I applied, got matched with an opponent, and the rest is history. Getting paid was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to get in there and challenge myself.
Somewhere along the journey, goals started to formulate, with UFC aspirations. Now before your appearance on a “popular combat show,” you took part in another groundbreaking reality fight show?
Kyle Watson: Yes, I was on a reality fight show with a slightly different dynamic. I fought on a season of “Bodog Fight” in Costa Rica and was able to secure a bonus for the “The Most Technical Fight” award. It was unique in that we fought in a ring on the beach. And I was lucky enough to be in the same season as many talented fighters like Cain Velasquez, Eddie Alvarez, Chael Sonnen, Jake Ellenberger, and many others.
You would eventually reach that goal in 2010, as you found yourself on “The Ultimate Fighter,” which was the gateway to competing in the UFC. How did it feel to fulfill your dream of competing in the UFC?
Kyle Watson: I have to be honest. It was surreal, and there were many times that I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. In high school, when I would buy used UFC’s on VHS from Family video, the thought never entered my mind that I would one day fight for the very same organization in front of millions of people. I was very grateful for the opportunity and excited to see the hard work pay off, but I tried very hard not to take it for granted. A lot of unique circumstances and great people on my path helped set it all in motion.
Your dream of being in the UFC, unfortunately, was short-lived after your loss against John Madesski at UFC 129. Looking back, do you feel could have done more in the company?
Kyle Watson: Absolutely! I was pretty heartbroken, all props to Makdessi for a masterful knockout. Unfortunately, I was most upset with my performance because I felt like I didn’t let my skillset show. At that time, it was the biggest North American show in history, around 56,000 in attendance, not including the millions of pay-per-view viewers. I let the bright lights and build up get in my head, and the nerves got the best of me. I kind of froze up. At that time, I was very confident that I could have beaten several guys on the lightweight roster, so I was most disappointed about not getting to show my talent.
Bad luck sadly continued in your against Juha-Vainkaiken at CWFC-Fight Night 3. This was your last MMA fight. Did this loss contribute to your departure from Mixed Martial Arts competition, or were there other reasons for the exit? Also, how hard was it walking away from being an MMA competitor?
Kyle Watson: Yes, this loss was one of several factors in my decision to hang up the gloves. The result of the fight was unfortunate. It was a competitive, back and forth match, but when I shot in for a takedown, my head skimmed his elbow, and I sustained a nasty laceration. Unfortunately, the doctor said I couldn’t continue, and despite trying to get it ruled a no contest, they said it was a TKO. I was hoping with this fight and a couple more wins, I would make it back to the UFC. However, at this time, my newly opened gym was really taking off and I found the balance of fighting and running a business very hard to juggle. In addition, I was getting older for the sport, at the age of 32. After a couple of heart to heart chats with my wife and some deep soul searching, I decided it was best to hang up the gloves and focus on my business. Although it was hard to swallow at the time, I now truly believe it happened this way for a reason.
Tune in to Part 2 to discover how Watson’s journey progressed after his departure from Mixed Martial Arts competition………………