It was a win for the ages…or at least, in terms of The Ultimate Fighter, for the aged.
He’s hardly Randy Couture, but at 31 years old—30 when he arrived in Las Vegas to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck—Kyle Watson sticks out from his housemates as a guy who’s “getting a bit old for this.”
However, while Watson—the jiu-jitsu instructor for Matt Hughes’ H.I.T. Squad—is not the kind of guy you’d expect to see living in a Las Vegas house with 13 other fighters, he’s proved to be perfectly at home in the cage.
After enduring a tough first round against Andy Main—a teammate of UFC standouts Jim and Dan Miller at AMA Fight Club—Watson gave Team GSP its third straight preliminary win on Wednesday night’s episode, submitting Main in the second round with a rear naked choke. Thursday, he took time to talk to UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report.
What was the reaction like from the people you watch the show with when they got to see you fight?
It was fun for me. Even though they can’t change the outcome, they were all acting nervous, and every time something good happened, they were clapping and being supportive and stuff. It was kind of nice to have everybody there to watch it.
Was it tough not to tell them anything—for example, when they see Andy hanging on your back and it wasn’t looking great—was it tough not to say, “Hang on, I get out of this?”
Yeah. I prefaced it by telling them, “Hey, it wasn’t my best performance,” but I didn’t want to give them any details.
That’s probably not something a lot of people have seen before, to have your opponent sitting on your back while you’re standing, trying to put on the choke. Obviously, it’s not easy to deal with, but can you give us some sense of what that’s like?
Yeah, I’ve been there before. It comes down to experience, and the fact that I’ve been in a lot of situations similar to that in my jiu-jitsu tournaments. It’s just a matter of not panicking.
I tell my guys that I teach all the time that when you’re in that spot, the more you panic, the more likely they’re going to get you. You start to relax, trust your technique. I made a mistake, I reached to his back to defend that single leg, so he straddled me, caught me off guard.
In my head, when he jumped on there, I’m thinking, “It can’t end this way, can’t end this way.” I just thought, “Be patient, be patient.” I wasn’t in any danger with strength. I didn’t even feel him on there. I just worried about the choke, so I was just patient, biding my time, and then I went to dump him when I felt his weight was shifted the right way.
Interesting that you talk about nerves and panicking because it seemed like in the buildup to the fight that was a major subject, with what John Danaher was talking about.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m nervous before every fight, but this particular fight, I chose this fight. This was the opponent I wanted to fight. Stylistically, I thought it was the best matchup. I was really confident going into it.
I’m curious what it was like for you going from training with Matt Hughes and trying to help him beat Georges St-Pierre to being on Georges’ team and having him for a coach.
I actually never got the opportunity to help Matt prepare for Georges. I think in their second fight, that was right around the stage where he’d just started the gym, hadn’t even opened yet. The second time he fought him, I didn’t even really know Matt at that point, and the third time, he was traveling a whole lot, training with Jeremy Horn and other people. It wasn’t awkward. I think Matt’s pretty open-minded. He asked if I learned a lot when I came back. Certainly, no big deal.
You mentioned learning a lot, and this probably isn’t something you normally get to do as part of a well-known camp, to get a taste of how another major team does things. Having had the opportunity to work with Greg Jackson and John Danaher as you did. That had to be—as someone who’s a coach—a really valuable opportunity for you.
Oh, no doubt. Everybody that Georges brought in was pretty phenomenal, in terms of what they had to bring to us. I think Matt Hughes is kind of from the same mold as Koscheck in terms of the way he looks at practice and looks at training.
I think I have a similar feel to how Koscheck’s practices are from how I’m training now, and it was interesting to see Georges’ style and the way he trains. It definitely opened my eyes. People might do things in different ways, and it might not mean, necessarily, that any of them are wrong, but if you can take a combination from each style of camp, I think it’s a good thing.
Is there anything specific that you’ve picked up from working with Georges and Greg Jackson and John Danaher and those guys that’s changed how you train people now at HIT Squad?
Absolutely. John Danaher was just phenomenal. He’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with, and one of the best guys, if not the best guy I’ve ever rolled with. He was just amazing. He definitely influenced me.
I feel like I’m a considerably competent coach and instructor, but just seeing a guy at another level of coaching, I took a lot of things away, not only technique-wise, but some things I had to learn in my own game. I learned a ton from John.
I’ve already taught some things that he taught me to my guys. I was really excited to pick up some new techniques. I’ll never be at the point where I know everything—no one ever does—but it was totally refreshing to work with John and see an entirely new perspective.
This has to be an exciting time for you overall. While the show is playing out, you’re doing things in connection with the show, and you’re also coaching and training at HIT Squad—among other things, helping Matt get ready for B.J. Penn—you’ve got a lot of different things going on.
I keep telling people, it’s a good problem to have, but it is definitely crazy now. I’ve got a lot on my plate. I’m the kind of guy who’s very generous with my time. I make sure my students are a priority, and people tell me, “Hey, you’ve got to be a little more selfish, you’ve got to focus on your own training.”
I’ve put my own training on the back burner and focused on stuff for the show, my teaching and training at the gym. I’ve kind of put my own personal development on the back burner. I’m really trying to buckle down and say, “I know I’ve got to take this time to prepare myself.” Fighting at this level, you can’t half-ass anything.
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