Ultimate Fighter veteran Kyle Watson hasn’t been seen in the cage since April 2011, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a busy man. After splitting with the HIT Squad, Watson opened his own gym, Watson Martial Arts, in St. Louis and has put the majority of his focus training the next generation of mixed martial artists.
“The gym opening has been going really well. It’s been stressful in a good way,” Watson told Five Ounces of Pain. “I’ve never been in this position where I’m the one man show doing the administrative stuff, teaching, and training. It’s been open for five months and a lot of people have come in the door. I’ve had some loyal followers. It’s growing and by next year I hope to expand.”
So what made Watson want to leave a gym that included veterans like Matt Hughes and Robbie Lawler? Watson explains the situation by saying, “It’s always been my goal to have my own gym but basically the new ownership bought the gym and the person who bought it had a bad business reputation. So he came in and changed everything and people didn’t like it. He changed it from a happy go lucky atmosphere to a gloomy atmosphere where he was jacking up rates and making us sign 2 year contracts so everyone left.”
He has fond memories about his time at the HIT Squad though, and even draws a comparison between the gym and the Ultimate Fighter house, which he spent time in as part of the TUF 12 cast.
“One of the coolest and unique things was that we had dorms on site so we had people from all over the world come in and stay with us,” said Watson. “It was similar to TUF except that the accommodations weren’t quite as nice and alcohol was still allowed but you weren’t cut out from the outside world. It was expected that if you play hard, you work hard. So you could have a good time but you better show up from training on Monday.”
The dorm rooms at the HIT Squad seem a lot easier than his time in the house, which he described as, “tough.” Expanding by saying, “. After the first couple of weeks there is still that novelty but after that it starts to wear on you and the house starts to become really small really quick. Training is actually the relief from boredom because guys are just walking around the house with their chest puffed out and acting tough and it got old quick. Having no contact with family and loved ones got pretty tough.”
The one thing that Watson enjoyed about being on the reality show was training with UFC champion Georges St. Pierre and the all-star team of coaches that he brought with him. “The training was the best part,” said Watson. “I was really fortunate to have Georges St. Pierre as a coach because he looked at himself as a training partner and not a coach. So he brought all his coaches in and used it as a training camp. He helped us and showed us things and we got to spar and roll with him, so it was a great experience.”
Working as a full-time trainer at his gym, Watson’s own personal training has suffered but his level of knowledge has increased. Watson explains, “A lot of people don’t understand how tough it is to wear both hats. Somewhere a long the line you can’t be great at both so something has to give and something gets short changed. If anything suffers it’s usually on my end because I don’t want to fail my students, so my own training takes a backseat. Teaching helps because you’re forced to learn things at a deeper level because people expect you to answer questions and explain things. It helps but it’s a challenging task.”
While he’s been working hard to get him gym off the ground, Kyle hopes to get back in the cage in early 2012.
“Originally I was hoping to fight at the end of the year but the gym has taken a lot of time out of my schedule to make sure it’s running smoothly so I haven’t been training as much as I’d like. I’ve been training to a certain degree and for a long time my biggest hole as been my wrestling so I’ve been training with a local collegiate team and private sessions with my wrestling coaches so I’m closing that area pretty quickly. I don’t think I’m in fight shape right now but I could be quickly so I need to talk to my manager more and hopefully return early next year.”
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC/WATSONMARTIALARTS