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Jonathan Shrager: Interview with Tom ‘Kong’ Watson — “I stand by my training partner Nate Marquardt”

By Zach Arnold | August 17, 2011

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By Jonathan Shrager

You can follow Tom “Kong” Watson on Twitter @TomKongWatson.

Jonathan Shrager: “I’d like to begin by asking about your unfortunate withdrawal from the Frank Trigg title defence at BAMMA 7?”

Tom Watson: “Yes, injuries are an inevitable bane of a sportsman’s life. It doesn’t matter at what level you compete, there are few things worse for a keen sportsman than not to be able to ply his trade and perform his art, whether through being on the substitutes’ bench, on the treatment table, or even worst case scenario on the operating table. The bottom line is that being sidelined is difficult to take, not only physically, but also mentally. And yet it is a sentiment with which you have to become accustomed to dealing through experience.”

Jonathan Shrager: “And can you elaborate a little on the specific injury which has forced you out of the fight?”

Tom Watson: “I had a scan the other day on my back, but even prior to assessing the images the doctor predicts that I have at least one ruptured disc. It’s pretty uncomfortable because the ruptured disc in my back is hitting a nerve resulting in constant nerve spasms. Consequently, I’m also struggling to stand for 15 minutes without having to sit down, and vice versa. I’m spending most of my days lying down.”

Jonathan Shrager: “Ok, well obviously everyone hopes that the scans reveal that the injury isn’t too serious, and that you can return to the cage ASAP. Prior to the Trigg fight, I heard Ariel Helwani had been in contact with you to discuss the fight. This highlights the rising prominence of BAMMA when you’re on the radar of the industry’s most recognisable interviewer?”

Tom Watson: “Indeed, I am proud to be fighting for BAMMA, and prior to its advent there weren’t many promotions outside of the UFC that were staging respectable events. The principal issue for BAMMA originally was attracting and signing high profile fighters, which it has successfully managed to address. And in terms of the live shows, the production values, the entertainment, and the treatment received by the fighters, the organisation is top notch. This will all be amplified by BAMMA’s recent global distribution deal with Content Media Corporation, which can only serve to significantly increase exposure and profile in numerous countries, and in turn attract even bigger marquis name fighters and sponsors. All positive implications.”

Jonathan Shrager: “Fantastic, and what do you think of Ariel as an interviewer?”

Tom Watson: “Ariel is undoubtedly a weasel, but he’s great at his job. In his line of work, a stirrer attains results. It’s no coincidence that Ariel is the man who always manages to obtain the exclusive interviews with Dana White at UFC events.

“Simply put, he captures the interviews that people want to see, full of media sensationalism. He broaches the topics and poses the questions that other interviewers may choose not to through concern of offending the fighters. I saw his recent sit-down with Chael Sonnen in which Chael defamed PRIDE and lambasted Brazilian fighters. Whilst extremely close to the bone, people enjoy such spectacles, including myself admittedly. And the proof is always in the pudding; Ariel is now arguably the single most successful and well-recognised reporter within MMA. From relative obscurity to prominence within a short time frame is a testament to his skill.”

Jonathan Shrager: “So you’re evidently a fan of his?”

Tom Watson: “Yes, I quite like Ariel. He only asks the questions, and it remains the fighters’ prerogative whether to respond. What does frustrate me is the occasions on which a reporter will purposefully modify your words, or omit certain sentences, in order to achieve the desired effect for their article.”

Jonathan Shrager: “It appears that the bitter war of words between BJ Penn and your teammate Nate Marquardt has recommenced following Nate’s assertion that BJ is a “Pothead”. Other fighters contributed with their input when the feud initially began. What did you make of fellow countryman Dan Hardy’s statement that Nate should work as a male stripper if banned indefinitely?”

Tom Watson: “Yes, Dan Hardy emerged with a characteristically humorous citation, but can Dan substantiate his comments about Nate’s medical background? At the end of the day, it’s all pure speculation. Referring to Nate’s past record with PEDs is futile since Nate has served his suspensions so that should be left in the past. And by Dan claiming that he doesn’t understand why 30 year-old men need TRT, well that’s an ignorant statement on behalf of Dan. Seemingly robust young athletes have suffered grave medical issues which nobody could anticipate so we shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover without knowing the hard facts. It’s a little bit silly for Dan to be involving himself in the debate, but then again I suppose he needs the publicity after his recent skid.”

Jonathan Shrager: “It’s evident that in MMA, fighters will always defend their teammates over countrymen. It underscores the bond that can be created between training partners.”

Tom Watson: “Well, I’ve never really trained with Dan Hardy, as when I’ve been with the team Roughhouse boys in Nottingham (Paul Daley, Andre Winner, Dean Amasinger), Dan has generally been out in the States. I always look out for his results, because he’s a Brit, he trains with guys I know, and he’s usually involved in exciting fights, but on the flip side, when he fought GSP I was one of Georges main training partners. And that’s the curious thing about MMA; you don’t always necessarily ally with your compatriot. The gym set-up resembles the military in that respect, in that sometimes different nationalities will unite to fight for a common cause. So I consider my training partners at Jackson’s as my brothers, as opposed to an unfamiliar fighter who happens to be of the same nationality.”

Jonathan Shrager: “And Chael Sonnen claimed that Nate might be omitting certain details. What’s your opinion on that?”

Tom Watson: “I’ve trained with Nate sporadically over the last few years, and he’s a good friend. I don’t like to offer an opinion, since the UFC, Nate and his medical advisors are the only parties privy to the specifics. What I can confirm, echoing the sentiments of many personalities within the MMA world, is that Nate is a great guy, and an honest man. It’s not as if he fought and was subsequently caught, but rather Nate was open about his TRT, and there were legitimate reasons for the treatment, so it’s a difficult situation.

“With respect to Chael Sonnen’s assertion that Nate was omitting certain details during his expose on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour, Chael found himself in a position which compelled him to make such a statement, in order to make it appear as if there was some point of distinction from his case of TRT following the Anderson Silva fight. Chael will soon be fighting one of my close friends and main training partners Brian Stann, which I don’t think is a favourable fight for Sonnen. Sonnen will probably enter the fight as the bookies’ favourite, so when Brian bests him, it’ll automatically thrust “The All-American” into title contention. I’ve become particularly close with Brian since his drop to middleweight, and following my fight with Murilo “Ninja” Rua I flew straight out to Vegas for his fight with Santiago, and then stayed at his house for a week.”

You can check out Jonathan Shrager’s writing profile here and follow him on Twitter @jonathanshrager. His interview with Nate Marquardt last week can be read here.

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