TUF 12: Kyle Watson Speaks on Matt Hughes at UFC 123, Fight With Wilkinson
He may not make as much noise outside the Octagon as some of his housemates, but Kyle Watson has made plenty of noise inside the Octagon this season on The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck.
Previously best known as the jiu-jitsu coach at the HIT Squad, Watson advanced to the semifinals of the TUF 12 lightweight tournament on last week’s show with a commanding performance against Aaron Wilkinson. The last week was not nearly as kind to his boss, however, as HIT Squad founder Matt Hughes was knocked out in 21 seconds by BJ Penn at UFC 123.
Watson took time Monday to discuss both his quarterfinal win and Hughes’ loss with UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report.
Before we get to the episode last week and your fight, I wanted to get some reaction from you on what happened on Saturday with Matt. Being part of his camp, it had to be tough to watch?
It was. I thought it would be a lot more competitive than that. It was one of those fights where I wouldn’t have bet money either way, because we’ve seen what a really in-shape and focused BJ Penn is like, and the same goes for Hughes, too. When Hughes is ready and prepared, he’s very dangerous as well. It was weird. I think the weirdest part was that I was in Montreal and I was actually watching the fight with Georges St-Pierre. That was really weird, watching the fight with him, and him having fought both of them. It was interesting. I figured if Matt stayed standing the way BJ’s striking had looked lately—despite the fight with Frankie Edgar, I think BJ Penn has some of the best hands in MMA—I knew he’d give Matt a hard time if he couldn’t get it to the floor. Unfortunately, he caught him before he even had the opportunity to try to take him down. I think that BJ caught him off guard, right in the first exchange. I don’t think Matt was ready for him to come forward with those straight punches. But as we all know, it only takes one to put you down, and BJ is a guy that can do that.
When I talked to Matt on the conference call before the fight, he mentioned that he’d only rolled with you a couple of times since you’d been back from taping the show, because he was going out to Jeremy Horn’s camp so much. Not having had much of a role in his training camp, was it weird not knowing as much what to expect from Matt, or where he was at with his preparedness?
The thing is, I’m a lot smaller than Matt, and not nearly as strong, so even though my jiu-jitsu is very technical, it’s very hard for me to put Matt in dangerous positions, just due to the sheer difference in strength, so I feel like a lot of times, he’d prefer to go to Horn’s, because he’s got bigger guys that are so technical as well who can put him in those dangerous positions. If someone asks me who he works with for jiu-jitsu, I’m going to say Horn, since Horn’s the guy that’s been with him from the beginning. I’m still relatively the new guy on the block. Since the HIT Squad opened, I’ve been there. So, I don’t really get to work with Matt on a one-on-one basis where I can actually show him things. It’s more, I train with him when we’re doing live drills. I didn’t really have enough experience to say, “You seem on” or “you seem off,” because I only rolled with him three times total for this camp. I didn’t really know what to expect, because I don’t see his preparation out in Utah.
Well, moving on to what’s going on with you and your fight on the show last week, what were your initial thoughts when the matchup was made with you and Aaron.
I was pretty happy with that, actually. I was even more comfortable after watching the first round and the wild card fight, because despite the fact that he was able to submit Marc Stevens, Marc had a very dominant first round on him. He really controlled him positionally, and I knew I was the strongest guy in the house, grappling-wise, and I figured, well, if Marc can put him in those positions, I can do the same thing, but I knew I would capitalize if I got his back or got him mounted. After watching the first round, I was a lot more confident. I was happy with the matchup, because Aaron, while a lot of people said his stand-up was stronger than mine, I knew that if I took him to the ground, he was going to be in a lot of trouble. My game plan was to make him think I might stand a little bit, and get him in the clinch. I figured he’d think I was going to shoot on him, so I did two level-change fakes, clinched him up, and from there, it was pretty much cruise control.
Yeah, you could definitely tell that you were confident in the comments they played while you were walking out, although I’ve got to say: “fish and chips?” That doesn’t sound like somebody who does a lot of trash talking.
It was one of those things where they didn’t have a lot of material to show of us trash-talking, because I think we respected each other. I never talk trash even if I don’t like the person, but I really did like Aaron. We got along really well, so that was the best thing I could come up with.
I think that kind of came across in the episode before, where they showed all the guys who were fighting in the quarterfinals, and you mimed hitting Aaron in the back of the head with a hammer. That’s not something you do to somebody you have a problem with.
I was just messing with Aaron. Aaron and I were very cool before and after the fight.
The other time we got to see you on this episode was working Michael’s corner in the fight with Alex. What did you think about being asked to corner for that fight? Did that have anything to do with Alex, or was it just that Michael asked you and you said OK?
Good question. Obviously, I’m not Alex’s biggest fan, but it was definitely not a thing where I said, “I’m going to corner you because I don’t like Alex.” It’s more a matter of Michael and I got along well, trusted each other as training partners, and he approached me about it. It was more being a friend of Michael than dislike for Alex. With the coaches stepping out of the situation, they had to have cornermen, so he asked me first, and I said, “Sure, no problem.” Alex asked me later to corner him, and I said, “I can’t man. I already committed to Michael.” I wouldn’t have liked to corner against Michael, but if Michael didn’t choose me and Alex said, “Hey I need somebody,” I would have done it for him as well. You need a cornerman. It was more my friendship with Michael than not liking Alex.
Did people have an issue with the fact that he wound up with someone from Koscheck’s team cornering him? It definitely came across weird. He had the corner from Team Koscheck—Josh even offered to corner him—he warmed up in the Koscheck locker room, and he came out in the yellow jumpsuit, the Koscheck color. Did anyone have an issue with that?
Well, the jumpsuit was more his thing than the color. He was wearing it because of the whole Bruce Leroy persona. I’m sure he was feeling a little disconnection from our team, and the other team. He didn’t really get along with anybody in the house, for the most part, but him and Jeff Lentz had a strange relationship sometimes. Some days, they’d talk smack to one another, other days act like best buddies. I can’t really explain that situation. But Brookins also cornered him because he felt the same way I did. Everyone needs a cornerman. Brookins got along with everybody, so he said, “I can help out too.” I can’t really explain the Jeffrey Lentz in the corner thing, but it wasn’t like all of a sudden, Alex was like, “I’m yellow team now,” it was more, “I feel a disconnect from my team. I just want to have somebody corner me.”
Any thoughts on that fight, having seen it from the corner? I know Koscheck was making like the fight sucked, more to get under Georges’ skin than anything else, but it was different kind of fight than we’ve seen on the show this season.
I think that was just Koscheck being a little childish. I think everyone there besides Koscheck thought it was an entertaining fight. I don’t see how you could say the fight sucked. It was back-and-forth, a little lopsided. I think the only thing that would have made it better would have been if there were a finish. I think the fight was very exciting. I think people are going to look at it one of two ways. Either they’ll think, “Michael’s not as good as I thought,” or “Bruce Leroy is better than I thought.” It’s up to each person to kind of decide that. I think a lot of people blew Alex off, but what he lacks in skill, he does make up with athleticism and heart, so he was able to stay competitive.
One last thing. The one clip that people have seen from next week’s episode with the semifinals is the weigh-ins, and I’ve just got to ask. What’s up with those boxers, man?
[laughs]. A lot of people have asked me about that, too. I wasn’t going to take the lead on being the attention whore and trying to get the camera all the time – I let Alex do that – but I have a sense of humor. I don’t take myself too seriously. That’s just my own way of being kind of silly. If I can get a chuckle out of somebody, I’m going to do that.