"When I did boxing and I did the Kostya Tszyu and Zab Judah fight, a mutual friend brought Dana White to that fight. He said, 'Hey, I got this guy and he's starting this organization. The guy is starting a mixed martial arts organization.' I had no idea what that was. I was the coordinator. You pay me, you respect me, and you got me. That was my motto. But I also knew I had to perform. So they introduced us and Dana said he was starting this organization and he was just putting people together and he was just putting things together. It was a hand shake. About 3 months later, I got a call that he was doing a fight...he does exactly what he says he's gonna do. You know, everybody can't be right on time when they say they gonna do it, but so far, it's all happened and nobody can say it hasn't happened. After 11 years, it's become the biggest sport in the world bar none," stated Burt Watson, site coordinator for the UFC, as he explained his role and how he made the switch from boxing to mixed martial arts to start working with the UFC. Check it out!
CLICK HER FOR PART 1 OF THIS IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH BURT WATSON
PC: You're nearly 62 years old. Where does the energy come from, man? You seem to feed off of these fighters. Do they keep you young?
BW: I feed off of them and their energy and their enthusiasm. Believe it or not, my mother is still living and my mother's personality is 3 times mine, if you could believe that. Her energy level...she still works 2 to 3 days a week as a nurse. She didn't allow us to be lazy. I'm sure anybody that came up in the old school...I will be 62 on my birthday and anybody from the old school will tell you, we weren't allowed to be lazy. That's where that energy level comes from. Also, at the same time, these guys, man, and this sport is so intense, Percy, it is at such a level that these guys, man, I can't afford to let them see me broke down or bent over. You know what? It's hard to respect something that is broke down, run over and out of gas. It's hard to respect that and I know that. I know that they need a positive situation, man, to do what they do in that Octagon. That's some...as long as I've been doing it, that's still some wild...it's hard to imagine what it takes inside for a guy to have to be able to perform at that level. I learned that there has to be some connect. I learned that through boxing, Percy, because there was always a disconnect between fighters and promoters. When I say disconnect, I mean...you know I learned in my boxing career that it wasn't always someone there to take care of the fighters. There wasn't always someone there to make sure they got what they needed to perform, so that's where I came up with that coordinator situation and that's how I worked my way up because you need a comfort level to do that. I always thought, "Hey man, listen, if I need to get it, I need to know where to go get it." It's two things that I won't do. I won't mess with tickets and I won't pay fighters; those two things. I stay away from tickets and paying fighters. I know how bad the disconnect is and I won't name any names or tell you who or where, but I did a fight in my boxing career awhile back and this guy fought a 4-round fight and he got $450 for a 4-round fight. Now this was back in the day; not too far back, but far enough. The promoter took the fee for medicals out of his purse. The guy got out of the ring and came to the back to get his check and I had to give him his check. I didn't know the money was deducted. He was walking away when he was opening his check and he back and said, "Mr. Burt, look at this." I looked at the check, man, and the check was $75. I said, "Man, did you not know that?" He kinda knew; he kinda knew. Right away, I knew there was a problem because he said he kinda knew. He said, "I gotta get my money, man." I said, "Man, I'm not the promoter. I can't pay you." He went off, saying, "I gotta get paid, man." I said, "Man, I'm sorry I can't help you." He started to get a little nasty, which I didn't understand, but I could understand. So then, I started to get a little nasty. So we're standing face to face and I'm talking and he says, "I'm going to get my money or I'm going to kick somebody's you know what." So I stepped back and I said, "You know what, baby? You gotta do what you gotta do." And guess what he did? He cracked me. Bam! I kinda shook a little bit. I saw it coming, so when it got close, I kinda swayed with it a little bit, but he got me. I went at him and people got in between us and stopped me and broke the scuffle up a little bit. I was like, "Jesus Christmas." Well, that was the last time I've ever paid a fighter. That was also when I sat with myself and said, "You know what? There is a real disconnect here. Somebody needs to get in the middle and connect that bridge." That's what I tried to do and that's what I did, but since then, I will never pay a fighter and mess with tickets.
PC: I definitely wanted to touch on the boxing aspect of your career, but one of the things that I found really funny is a lot of my friends started calling me up and saying, "Hey man, who is that black guy that's always on stage at the UFC weigh-ins?" I want to give you the opportunity to explain how you became that black guy on the stage at the UFC weigh-ins (laughing).
BW: Well, I was that, and now I'm the babysitter to the stars. I was the unidentified black guy on the stage. When I did boxing and I did the Kostya Tszyu and Zab Judah fight, a mutual friend brought Dana White to that fight. He said, "Hey, I got this guy and he's starting this organization. The guy is starting a mixed martial arts organization." I had no idea what that was. I was the coordinator. You pay me, you respect me, and you got me. That was my motto. But I also knew I had to perform. So they introduced us and Dana said he was starting this organization and he was just putting people together and he was just putting things together. It was a hand shake. About 3 months later, I got a call that he was doing a fight. I was told to do what I do, plain and simple. They didn't tell me to do nothing different or constructive because, as a coordinator, that's what I did. I went and did what I do. I went and it was UFC 31. That was my first one and I went out there and did what I do. The next fight he had, I got another phone call and it went on like that. It just kept being phone calls and phone calls. Time went by so quick, before I knew it, a year had gone by and then it went from phone calls to schedules. They gave me a schedule of how many fights they were having and that's how that happened, man. It snowballed and went on from there, man. One thing I can tell you, I know what loyalty is, baby, and I know what it is to be loyal to someone and to be a person that gives your word, and that's what it is. That's the only relationship and thought process I've ever had with Dana White, loyalty, and Dana does exactly what he says he's gonna do. You know, everybody can't be right on time when they say they gonna do it, but so far, it's all happened and nobody can say it hasn't happened. After 11 years, it's become the biggest sport in the world bar none and the things that I do with these fighters, and the job that I do with these fighters, which is a part of my job, you see me up on stage. It's not my job to make weight for them, but it's a part of my job to give them a comfort level and to put all of the things in place that they need to cut weight and make that weight. So if I put all of those things in place the right way, the way I know now after 10 years or so of being in the sport and knowing exactly what they need or some of the things they need to cut weight, then I do that. But I'm going to tell you something, baby, if we got 10 fights and I'm standing up on that stage, I make weight 20 times. I make weight every time somebody steps up on that stage; that's why I'm always moving. That's why I'm always back and forth because I'm making weight, baby! When they step up on that stage, I'm making weight. When they get up on that scale, I'm making weight. When they get off of that scale....I stand there until they get on that scale and when they make weight, I'm like, "Yeah!" That's what I'm talking about, baby. I feel it.
PC: I think a lot of people, for a long time, thought you were just the guy that stood on stage and told people where to go, but in BJ Penn's book, I think he opened a lot of people's eyes to what it is you really do. BJ said in his book that from the time fighter's land at the venue to the time they are leaving the venue, Burt Watson takes care of them.
BW: From the time they get there to the time they leave, they need a comfort level. They gonna need somebody that they can depend on or feel they can depend on that's gonna help them get what they need. I tell them anything that's on their mind, I need it in my ear. I point to my head and I say, "If it's up here, I want it right here," and I point to my ear. I say, "If it's right here," and I point to my heart, "I want it hear." The only stupid questions are the ones you don't ask. If it's 3:00 in the morning, if you think it, I want to hear it. If you feel it, I want to hear it. If your girlfriend makes you mad, you miss your dog, or your mama cursed you out, whatever it is, I want to hear it because whatever it is, I don't want you to walk from that dressing room to that Octagon with it on your head; plain and simple. I give them that kind of attention man because these guys are all respectful to me. They do what they gotta do when they gotta do it and I gotta be there to take care of them and I gotta do it sincerely. They gotta feel that, you know, "He means it. He means it sincerely." If not, they won't do it. I can tell you they won't do it.
PC: You spoke about the disconnect between boxing promoters and their fighters. I think you are the connection with these MMA guys. I remember speaking to Frank Trigg after his UFC return in Dallas and I asked him, since he hadn't fought in the UFC in so long, was it different behind the scenes and he said no because you were still there running the show. You're that familiar face for these guys no matter how long they've been away.
BW: That's what I try to be and that's the reference that I try to make. I try to give them that bridge. That's becoming how the UFC wants them to feel. They never laid out a gameplan for me. It was, "You do it." But I'm sure if it wasn't right or didn't work, somebody would have said something. But these guys come in and they come in heavy and they gotta cut weight. I don't agree with it and I'm still not used to it, but you know what? It's what they do and some things, I gotta let them have. But I gotta put it in their head that when you come to me, if it ain't right, I'm gonna get you. I'm gonna put something in your head that's going to make you say, "You know, shit, now I gotta face him and hear his mouth." I've had some new guys come in and they step on the scale and I'll look at it and they step off of the scale and put their clothes on and I tell them, "You know what, son? I'm not happy with that." He'll look at me like, "What do you mean you're not happy? I can do it." Yeah, you know you can do it, but I don't know you can do it. I'm the person that, if you don't do it...if they get on that scale, Percy, and they don't make weight, the first person everybody looks at is me. And that's everybody on that stage, and the commission, and the media, and the fans, and all of the world. Right in my direction. Bam! I gotta look at him like, "You know what? It ain't the scale, baby!" I get that scale the first day of the week and I get it certified. I keep my eye on it and I watch it and I put it in the workout room. The night before the weigh-in, I take the official scale, and nobody touches that scale but me or the commission until them guys get on it. I take that bullet. I learned that from boxing. I've been to weigh-ins in boxing where guys will come in and they will look and see their opponent messing around with the scale and then it comes to the weigh-ins and if it ain't what he thinks it is, he's going to say, "You know what? I saw my opponent the other day touching that scale." I don't want that on my watch, so once that scale is done, I don't want nobody to say that anybody touched that scale but me. If something's wrong with it, you just ain't doing it right. I want to be able to really say that. I get that scale certified twice a week, baby. That's the hardest time for me, standing up on that stage waiting for everybody to make weight. I'm telling you.
PC: Well, man, it's been a pleasure speaking to you. I could keep you on this phone for hours, so we will definitely have to do it again. You guys are finally coming to New Orleans in September and I hope to meet you, even if it's just to shake your hand.
BW: That sounds like a winner. It is some time in September that we're due to come out there. At this point, there's so much going on with Strikeforce too now, so I don't know when anymore, but I get the months and I do understand we will be in New Orleans.
CLICK HER FOR PART 1 OF THIS IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH BURT WATSON