FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lewiston, Maine (October 17, 2013) – Josh “Stay Down” Watson’s (7-3) history in athletics is the story of a smaller guy playing the role of a larger guy. Recently, Watson was interviewed for the New England Fights Mixed Martial Arts (NEF MMA) Podcast where he touched on such topics as his athletic upbringing, training, family issues, and his return to the MMA cage after over two years on November 9 in Lewiston, Maine.
“I grew up mostly doing the football thing,” said Watson. “I was an award-winning football athlete going to Bonny Eagle High School. And from there I went and played football at UMaine. I was always the small guy put into the larger player’s role, so when college football was over for me, that was the end of the line for me there.”
It was during those formative years that Watson picked up an appreciation for the teamwork aspects of athletics. Once his football career was over, the native of Limington, Maine found that any future he would have in sports would include working in a team atmosphere.
“Weightlifting doesn’t get it done for me,” continued Watson. “Even other than football, I’ve always done sports. I did basketball for a little while, wrestled in high school, track, indoor and outdoor. I did a lot of team activities, and going to the gym and lifting by myself does not fulfill that team void. I really think that’s what kind of brings me back each time (to training in MMA), because you can’t prepare for a fight, you can’t train without having that team camaraderie.”
Unlike a lot of mixed-martial-artists, however, Watson did not immediately fall in love with the sport. While he had an awareness of the sport early in its development, Watson did not, at that time, envision cage fighting as his chosen career path.
“Ever since UFC 1, I’ve known about it and watched it,” said Watson. “Never really thought much about doing it. As I was getting done with the whole football thing, I was a football coach at Scarborough High School, and there were a few days hanging around with some of the guys on the team after practice and they were like ‘hey, they’re doing The Ultimate Fighter tryouts in Boston, you should go, you’ll kick everyone’s ass…’ That kind of started my snowball of being interested in it.”
Days later, Watson found himself working next to Maine MMA pioneer Jay Jack, head of the Academy of MMA in Portland. Watson discussed beginning training with Jack, but Watson’s nightly work schedule would not allow for it at the time. Soon after, the Academy began running classes that fit with Watson’s work schedule, allowing him to immediately begin training with Jack.
“It is a lifestyle, it is my family,” Watson said of the Academy. “Being out here in Vegas now… I quickly credit the Academy. I get better coaching from Jay Jack than I do out here… Jay Jack will always be my number-one coach. He’ll always be my fallback guy.”
Starting his fighting career in 2007, Watson became serious about training and trying to make it to the big leagues. After three years of competing on the New England MMA circuit, Watson uprooted his family and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to train with other like-minded fighters.
“It was purely for my career,” said Watson of his move from Maine to Las Vegas. “We’re going hard every single day. This isn’t two, three days a week. In Vegas, when you get to these gyms, there are really team-structured practices. And I really like that aspect.”
Watson found himself a new home as a member of the world-renown Team Syndicate in Las Vegas. If it was the big show Watson wanted to make it to, then he could not be in better company. He honed his craft working alongside such names as Forrest Griffin (19-7), Mike Pyle (25-9-1), and Martin Kampmann (20-7), among others. Watson was now working daily with individuals who had not just made it to the big stage of the UFC, but who had thrived and excelled at that level.
“I would say the best part (of being with Team Syndicate) is an increased intensity,” stated Watson. “Me and Forrest, before my layoff and he got injured too, we were working three or four days a week together. That’s an intense man. He goes hard every single time. Even with just rolling, Jiu Jitsu only, he goes as if it’s a fight for the 205 title. I think that’s the biggest part. You work on skills, but you have people there who are in great shape, just pushing and pushing for that pace to be setup for you.”
Watson returned home to Maine in September 2011 where he competed on one of the first MMA cards to take place in the state after the sport’s legalization. On that night, it took him just a minute and a half to knock out Carlos Lovato (2-1) in a light heavyweight battle. Little did anyone know, not the hundreds of friends and family in attendance, nor even Watson himself, that life was about to deal Watson a blow that would put his career on hold for two years.
“The biggest issue was when I came home from that fight, I came into a broken home,” recalled Watson. “I had to put my family first. My family moved with me to Vegas. On top of me trying to start my career, working 40 hours a week, trying to cover all the bases of a father, and came home to that, I kind of had to put my career on pause for a little while and try to work through some kinks which four or five months later ended up dissolving and us going our separate ways. Basically, it’s been on and off through the courts, family issues. That’s finally settled down as of March of this year. I had surgery on my left knee during the winter.”
While Watson has prided himself on playing the role of the smaller guy in the larger guy’s fight, that roll will be flip-flopped in his next bout on November 9 in Lewiston, Maine. On that night, Watson will face Florida’s Ryan Hodge (5-7) at a catchweight of 230 pounds. Hodge regularly competes nearly fifty pounds lighter in the 185-pound middleweight division. In this rare instance, Watson will be coming in as the bigger dog in the fight.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s fought some pretty good guys,” Watson said of Hodge. “And he’s not afraid. When you get over fighting, past your first ten pro fights, there really isn’t that fear there because you should have confidence. If you’re training at a really good gym, you should be getting confident… Him being the smaller guy, to me, he’ll probably come in thinking that he’s quicker, and probably hoping that his hands are faster than mine, and probably feeling that if it goes to the ground he’ll be a little bit slicker and able to move around quicker than I will… Everyone has their gameplan until they get punched in the face. I’m a true believer of it because I’ve had numerous gameplans, I’ve gotten hit, and the plan’s gone out the window. But I think that, as more of a mature fighter, you try to stick to that gameplan the best you can.”
With the family issues now behind him, and his fight with Hodge on the horizon, Watson will now focus on his MMA career and making it to the big stage he has dreamed of for the past seven years. And he already has a gameplan together for his comeback.
“My plan is to have this one catchweight fight at 230,” stated Watson. “And my next fight back will be at 205. And I’m hoping to get maybe two, maybe three 205 fights under my belt, but my goal is to, one year from this fight, one year from November 9, have my 185 debut. That’s where I need to be. By then, I’ll be 31 years-old. People still say, ‘that’s not too old,’ but I feel it. Playing high school football, college football, I’m not someone who takes it easy on my body. Even at 31, I still feel old. If I don’t make these leaps and bounds now, to try to make it to a big show or stage, it’s not gonna happen. I need to do it realistically.”
You can listen to the full NEF MMA Podcast interview with Josh Watson by visiting www.NewEnglandFights.com/Podcasts/.