Two months ago, Tom Watson (16-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) was riding high after a thrilling TKO win over Stanislav Nedkov that secured him $100,000 in bonus checks. Now he’s just waiting for his next assignment, and he’s not sure where exactly where he fits into the UFC’s current middleweight picture.
“Kong” tried to get the ball rolling with a recent and respectful callout of MMA legend Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1 MMA, 5-7 UFC), but “The Axe Murderer” fans offered some protest.
“I know Wanderlei doesn’t care, but I’ve got to make the fans want to see the fight,” Watson told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “He’s going to fight whoever they want to see him fight. A lot of people have come out and said – I think predominantly more people in the States have come out and said, ‘Shut up. You can’t talk to a legend like this.’ But look, if you’ve seen my fights in England and throughout Europe – even in Canada – this is how I fight.”
Stylistically, the bout certainly looks fun on paper. With eight knockout wins on his resume, Watson makes no secret of his preferred plan of attack. But Silva’s status as MMA royalty means a two-time UFC fighter might not offer the most appealing of opponents.
Some have suggested Watson instead turn his attention to Brian Stann (12-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC), a man “Kong” considers a true friend but insists he would be willing to fight.
“I speak to Stann all the time,” Watson said. “He would do it. Obviously, he just had a knockout loss to Wanderlei, so I think he’s working with that, and maybe it’s not the greatest time to do a fight right now, but we’re not opposed to it.
“Me and Brian even said we would train with each other for the fight. Have the guys come and film us training and talking s–t before the fight. I think it would be something different that no one’s seen.”
Stann has been relatively quiet since his March loss to Silva, and with a budding role as a UFC analyst/host paying dividends, he might not be in any hurry to fight again. If Watson is looking for high-profile matches, this weekend’s UFC 159 event could provide a name after Michael Bisping (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) and Alan Belcher (18-7 MMA, 9-5 UFC) square off.
However, Watson doesn’t believe either man would be willing to accept a fight.
“I’d love to, but realistically, I don’t think either guy would take that fight,” Watson said. “I think they would see it as a step down. But I will watch the fight just out of interest for Bisping, really. Obviously he got knocked out by Vitor Belfort last time out, so I think if he loses this fight, his stock’s rapidly gone down, I think, in the division. So I expect Bisping really to come out with a pretty big performance.”
Yushin Okami (29-7 MMA, 13-4 UFC) has yet to receive his next assignment, and the Japanese fighter currently boasts a three-fight win streak. “Thunder” isn’t necessarily known as a banger, but his reputation as a perennial contender could prove tempting for Watson.
“I don’t know Okami, but I don’t think Okami really cares,” Watson said. “He fought an old teammate of mine, Buddy Roberts, on late notice. He stepped up, and he beat him. I don’t think Okami really cared, to be honest.
“I think he would probably be more interested in that fight, and for me, I think, that would actually be a real good fight. Style-wise, it’s not the brawl everybody wants to see, but it’s a good test for me. Okami just runs through guys with his strong game, so that would be a real test for me to see where my game’s at.”
In truth Watson is open to just about any matchup in the UFC’s middleweight division. Bottom line, he just wants to put on another crowd-pleasing performance, and he’ll do it against anyone the fans want to see.
“I think [Francis Carmont] (21-7 MMMA, 5-0 UFC) is on a pretty good roll,” Watson said. “Tom Lawlor (9-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) recently just fought in Sweden, and I was there for the Q&A. That would be a great fight. I think out of the names, Cung Le (9-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) would probably the best name for me. Biggest name. Striking is top-notch. I just think that would be a great fight. For sure I would take some damage, but that would be why people would want to watch the fight.”
There is one name Watson hopes to avoid: Mark Munoz (12-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC). Watson and Munoz currently train together at Reign Training Center.
“I’m training with Munoz, so I’m trying to help him a bunch,” Watson said. “I’d sooner not fight Mark because obviously he’s helping me a lot at his gym. My opinion is I’ll fight people I train with, but it depends on the guy and the relationship and how it’s going to be. Going back to Brian Stann, we never had a problem with it, but I don’t think many guys are really like that.”
Watson is hoping to receive his next assignment soon. After all, when you score both “Fight of the Night” and “Knockout of the Night” bonuses in one appearance, you tend to build a little momentum. For now, he’s waiting on his phone to ring, and he wouldn’t mind a little fan suggestion on potential matchups thrown to his Twitter account (@TomKongWatson) with a hashtag of #KongVS.
Primary requirements, find a fight for Watson that makes sense for both parties – and make sure it’s got the potential to be a barnburner.
“I’m trying to make a good fight for the fans,” Watson said. “Wanderlei isn’t the only guy that’s out there to do it, so we’ll see what the fans want to do, really.”
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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