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Interview with Burt Watson: Still Rollin, Still Looking to Work in MMA

AJ Camacho

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Transcribed below is just a glimpse into the amazing discussion I had with former UFC Event Coordinator, Burt Watson. The transcribed interview is edited for brevity and clarity. For the full, fun, and raw verbosity of Burt Watson definitely check out the podcast link below.The man is a wealth of knowledge and our discussion covered the gamut of topics including the boxing scene in Philadelphia, Joe Frazier, his start in MMA, the Latin Billboard Awards, the source of his work ethic, the story of how he had to order a fleet of taxi cabs to get all the fighters to the venue on time, and whether or not he plans on still working in the industry. Every word out of Burt’s mouth is a slice of MMA history, so definitely check it out.

MMA Latest P4P Podcast #12 CATCHING UP WITH BURT WATSON

Hello, this is AJ Camacho with MMA Latest news I’m here today with former UFC event coordinator, Burt Watson. For those not familiar with Burt’s work, Burt has spent over the past decade managing logistics behind the scenes of the UFC for well over the past 14 years. Many of you may know Burt ass the energetic black gentleman in glasses who is usually seen pumping fighters before they walk out for their fight.

Burt has been a staple and an institution within the UFC. His presence and work ethic have created a standard within the industry, performing with a charismatic passion that has become his trademark.

Burt, thank you for speaking with me today.

My pleasure AJ.

First off, I don’t want to rehash too many details over your departure. I think you’ve been clear about what had happened. Essentially, an executive treated you in a way which you did not approve, you let him know that, and you took your employment elsewhere. Would you say that, that’s a fair brief summary?

That’s pretty brief, pretty accurate. An incident happened, I felt disrespected, and I was approached inappropriately and I responded to it.

Personally, I want to commend you for doing that. There are a lot of employment situations where people aren’t clear about the way they wish to be treated by their peers, their co-workers, their superiors… and it’s important that people establish the conduct and behavior they expect from those people. Especially with someone like you, you put so much love and passion into your work. I mean that was your identity for so long.

It’s very important, not only for someone that’s been with a company a period of time, the younger generation the people that are working to break into the workforce. It is a very clear thing, respect. Respect for yourself, respect for the craft is something that is very important. And when you do things the right way and you get the job done, and you get it done the right way… then the respect for the work that you give and the respect for what you do. The respect should be there from anybody. But you gotta do a good job in order to get that kind of respect.

Do you feel that the executive culture at the UFC has changed within the last few years?

Everything within the UFC has changed within the last few years and that’s because of the growth of the UFC and the growth of the sport. I was with the UFC for 14 years… what I did had to succeed and it had to adjust with the growth of the business and the growth of the UFC. I’ve seen a lot of people in the past 14 years come and go. I’ve seen a lot of the system grow and when a system, an organization, and structure that large grows that quickly, there’s gonna be some changes.

There’s going to be times where some people feel pressure, or pressure of the event, or pressure of the situation and that comes with the growth. Especially when the growth is as rapid and as large as that of the UFC.

You know I started with them at UFC 31 and by UFC 95 going into 100 we were just about worldwide. [The growth] was rapid, it was on a rapid pace, and it was at a high level. It had become the highest level in the sport of MMA… the sport itself became the largest growing sport in the world baby!

Which change was probably more dramatic? Was it the acquisition of Strikeforce or was the FOX deal just on a totally different level?

The change came about with the Spike deal. You know, that early out because at that point… with the creation of The Ultimate Fighter, that gave worldwide exposure to the feeder system of MMA and the feeder system of the UFC. When that started and it exposed the sport to the world. I myself, personally, when I started in MMA, I knew of Bruce Lee and I knew Bruce Lee Roy. Not the Bruce LeRoy now but back from my day (see, the 1985′ film The Last Dragon) but I didn’t know that there was such a thing as organized MMA. I really had no idea because I was from the world of boxing, and too because the sport was not as exposed and mainstream as it is now.

I’m not sure of the number but when I started but I think they might have had, maybe 30 fighters on contract, maybe 20 if that. As of about three weeks ago I know they had over 510. That’s a big change baby!

I think one of the reasons why people have galvanized around your departure as an issue, was because the UFC has always been presented to us as this big family, this big traveling circus of people that go from show to show. Do you think some of that culture is… not lost, but a little left behind due to this?

Some things speak for itself. You know, you don’t have to put a face on everything. Sometimes the face is there for you. There’s still a lot of good people that work in a good family environment there at the UFC. But then again, at the same time when you are in an organizational structure that has the growth that [the UFC] has, and has brought on the amount of people and the amount of fighters that it has, over the last 12 years, you know things are gonna change baby! The level of expectations, from the fighters, from the operations people, from me and my guys in fighter relations… all of that changed man.

When you get that big and change that quickly it changes the culture, 100%.

Do you miss the job?

I miss the money… hahaha.

And I miss the fighters. I can honestly tell you that over the last 14 or 20 days or however… I can tell you that I’ve personally gotten a phone call, or a tweet, or on facebook, or a text, from over half of the fighters on our roster.

Yeah, that outpouring has been amazing of people supporting you.

I’m totally overwhelmed. Ronda, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre, Matt Serra, Weidman – I can’t even… Julie Kedzie… people have called me up and I hate to mention names because I hate to miss any names. Over half of the roster, and the cut men, and the corners… Hackleman, Trevor Whitman, Ryan Hoss, everybody man. I miss that. That makes you miss it because then it tells you the effect that you had on people. The influence and what people really thought of you. And I’m still getting phone calls… and I’m going to keep that line open because I answer every one of them. Every one of them I get I answer back.

I’m overwhelmed by that. I’m proud of that and that I miss, yes.

Do you have any plans on what the next chapter of your life is going to bring?

Well, I was at a point where we did 42 shows… 43? Do I want to do 43 shows a year again? I’m 66, I got a birthday coming up. No. Do I want to do 30 shows a year? No. Can I or do I want to do 10… or less and consult with someone on how to do a show, how to put shows together, give a hand here and give a hand there, or help out some young organizations… and put a little bit of wisdom in some young kid’s head? Yes, I’ll do that.

My mental [faculties] and my skills are still there. They’re not going anywhere. They’ve only gotten better because I’ve been doing it for 14 years. So I’ve been doing and learning and teaching myself at the same time. I’ve got 14 belts baby and I’d like to think that I retired undefeated.

Personally, I want to thank you for your service to the sport. As a fan, we appreciate it and clearly the athletes all appreciate it. So thank you.

If you’d like to keep tabs or get in touch with Burt you can visit his website: www.Burtwatson4real.com. Stay tuned as he plans on developing training resources for up and coming promoters and coordinators in the industry. You can also follow him on twitter @BurtWatson4Real

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Bellator

Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Bellator

Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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