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Exclusive Interview with Tom “Kong” Watson ahead of Middleweight Title Bout With Frank Trigg
Following considerable deliberation on the part of “Twinkle Toes,” the middleweight title tilt between Tom “Kong” Watson and Frank Trigg has finally been confirmed for BAMMA 7 on September 10 at the NIA in Birmingham, England.
“Twinkle Toes” will be the third dance partner (see what I did there?) who will attempt to pry the BAMMA title away from Watson’s grasp.
Ever since both Tom “Kong” Watson and Frank Trigg prevailed at BAMMA 6 on May 21, Watson immediately realised that Trigg was the “prize” that awaited him, and that it was an inexorable destiny for their paths to cross in the cage;
Neither the fans, nor myself, have any qualms with Trigg being the number 1 contender to my throne, since he beat John Phillips convincingly at BAMMA 6, who was next-in-line for the opportunity prior to the arrival on the scene of “Twinkle Toes”. In all honesty, I strongly felt that the fight was an inevitability since BAMMA 6, as it made sense on various levels.
And it’s a fight that fans desperately implored to materialise;
I’m not a superstitious man myself whatsoever but for my family, friends, fans and followers (a lot of “f”s there), it augurs well that Frank topped the Facebook BAMMA poll to decide my opponent, in the same way that Ninja did earlier in the year.
That isn’t to say that the fight was finalised without complication, and a certain amount of stalling on behalf of the UFC veteran, who Watson suggests was reluctant to initially sign up for the fight;
In my mind, there is zero doubt that Frank is fully aware of my physical condition, and that this has significantly contributed to his acceptance of the bout. Though he will probably declare otherwise, there exists no other rational explanation which accounts for his sudden U-turn in proactively seeking the fight, since prior to discovering about my injuries, he was attributing his reluctance to his potential earnings.
And the manner in which Trigg has dealt with the negotiations certainly hasn’t endeared him to Watson;
I can’t knock Trigg for opting to fight an injured adversary, but the manner in which he has handled the negotiations doesn’t earn my respect since it seems like the fight has materialised purely because of my injury. From his perspective, it probably constitutes a smart career move. After all, overcoming me would possibly propel him back into a top US promotion.
Watson readily admits to his current physical deficiency, yet vehemently refuses to back down from the challenge of testing himself against a UFC stalwart;
Given the type of back injury which I have sustained, there is no specific timeframe for recovery, and I’ll openly admit that I’m currently fighting well below 100%. I managed to train around the injury prior to the Ninja fight, but unfortunately it has deteriorated gradually since May.
However, I remain hopeful that my injury will calm down sufficiently for me to undertake at least a few weeks of robust training before the Trigg fight.
Logic would dictate that I remove myself from the fight should the condition not improve significantly, but I’ve never previously pulled out of a fight, it’s not befitting of my character and it’s highly unlikely to happen. If I sign up for a fight, I fight.
Revealing the rather profound facet of his personality, the man they call “Kong” also poignantly expressed his mantra towards life;
I also adopt a rather philosophical stance towards fighting and life generally. Life is so precarious and so fleeting that I have neither the inclination, nor the time more importantly, to wait around 'til I’m at 100% to fight Trigg. This belief in “Carpe diem” was reinforced when I recently discovered the tragic news of the death of the man against whom I made my professional MMA debut, my (sur-) namesake, and coincidentally the name of my own father, Michael Watson.
“Kong” is almost hoping that Trigg underestimates him now on account of his injury setback;
Whilst I’m 100 percent certain that fighting fully fit I destroy Frank Trigg, I’ve now accepted the fight, and I will not dwell on my issues. And when I step into the cage, I always believe I am leaving the victor. So, if Trigg now feels that this is a more straightforward assignment, we’ll see how easy I make it for him come Sept. 10.
However, injuries aside, Tom eagerly anticipates yet another prominent fight to punctuate his illustrious career;
As soon as the fight was announced on Inside MMA, I’ve very much been looking forward to another high-profile fight for Europe’s leading MMA promotion BAMMA, against a well-recognised and talented fighter.
You know a fight is prestigious when it garners the attention of prominent characters within the world of MMA media such as Ariel Helwani, who has already been in contact with my manager with a view to gaining my thoughts on the encounter.
And there is a small amount of history between the two fighters, a subtext which underpins their relationship and serves as an intriguing backdrop to their encounter;
Frank Trigg, commentating from cageside, claimed to be unimpressed by my performance at MFC 26 when I was outpointed by Jesse Taylor. In all honesty, I have been equally unimpressed with some of his previous outings. However, I believe he reassessed his initial impression upon seeing my obliteration of Ninja in May.
“Kong” also questions the matchmaking which has seemingly favoured Trigg as of late;
I wouldn’t go as far as to claim that he has handpicked his recent opponents, nor that they were lesser fighters, but he has certainly been pitted against fighters which stylistically suit him (e.g. non fellow-wrestlers), and consequently that he has been expected to defeat. I’m sure his management will also consider my style as perfectly tailored towards Frank, a fighter that has generally lost solely to his wrestling counterparts.
Regarding Frank’s performance at BAMMA 6, I didn’t read too much into it. The fight essentially unfolded pretty much as I had anticipated, with Frank being able to take John to the mat, where I believed he would be able to execute a submission or grind out a result.
And whilst demonstrating respect for Trigg’s overall resume and his credentials, he also questions whether he can hang with the sharks at a higher weight class;
I genuinely don’t believe that at this stage of his fighting career, he is in the same class as me. He is a top athlete fighting out of Xtreme Couture, and he is proven at world level, having only been bested by top-class opponents throughout such as Koscheck, Hughes, GSP and Condit.
I respect Frank’s ability and he could probably still compete admirably with the world’s top 50 at both welter- and middleweight. I would also contend that he was past his prime during his second stint in the UFC, so one shouldn’t read too much into his losses against top class opposition at this juncture.
Furthermore, he isn’t naturally a middleweight fighter. A dangerous, prime Frank Trigg is a welterweight and I highly doubt he can mix it with the true elite fighters in a higher weight division.
In terms of the pre-fight antics, Watson believes they could potentially reach unprecedented levels;
Trigg and I is a recipe for some epic banter. We are both competent trash-talkers, and similarly we have both proven ourselves savvy in terms of marketing a fight. Frank certainly has the credentials with his pro-wrestling background. However, as always, I will await Frank’s approach to the talking, and whether he wants to be respectful or antagonistic. I tend to react in kind. And since the fight has literally just been finalised, I haven’t had time to contemplate any angles of banterous attack.
With respect to gameplans, Watson confesses that it’s pretty self-explanatory for both parties involved;
It’s amusing that people seemed more concerned with my plans for the pre-fight hype than for the actual fight. Perhaps this is because my game plan tends to be rather self-evident. With respect to tactics for the fight, it’s a classic match-up of styles, with striker pitted against wrestler.
As is necessary for all modern mixed martial artists, both of us will constantly be training and evolving in all disciplines of the game. Training out of two of the best MMA gyms in the world, Jackson's and Xtreme Couture, this is the norm.
Before the Ninja duel, I predominantly trained grappling, fully expecting a ground war with Rua for at least the first two rounds, which obviously never materialised.
However, it remains likely that come fight night, I will attempt to primarily strike and Trigg will endeavour to take me into his realm. MMA, as complex and multi-faceted as it can be, doesn’t always have to be rocket science.
I’m a candid person, and a candid fighter, and sometimes fighters can get carried away with concealing a plan of action. If Trigg stands for five rounds with me, simply put, he’s getting knocked out eventually.
Vice versa, I would prefer not to engage in a 25-minute wrestling contest with Frank. It’s no secret; I know this, Frank knows this, and on Sept. 10 we are all afforded an opportunity to witness who can effectively implement their gameplan and impose their will.
That’s not to say that I won’t have a Plan B, C or D. Depending on the notice, weeks or even months prior to a fight, I will sit down with head coach Greg Jackson and we will devise a few angles with which to approach a specific opponent.
He’s incredibly astute, and would never allow me to prepare without considering various potential scenarios. He normally displays a lot of faith in my ability, which is reassuring, and he will believe I am capable of dispatching with Trigg.
After outlining the patent plans of attack, Kong clearly reiterates his intentions for BAMMA 7, with an added sprinkling of characteristic humour;
I still enter the fight very much believing that I will retain my title on a third consecutive occasion. And who knows Frank may be my third consecutive opponent that I retire following Reid and Rua. After all, his full name is Dewey Franklin Trigg III so he must like being the third in line.
And I deign to suggest that if he does retire old “Twinkle Toes” perhaps Trigg will consider following Chuck Liddell onto “Dancing with the Stars”. After all, his name intimates that he enjoys partaking in a little buggy. But jokes aside, “Kong” exits the conversation on a decidedly positive note;
To all my fans and followers, in a world of full of uncertainties, one thing for certain is that come Sept. 10, I will be ready and willing to fight.