EXCLUSIVE | Burt Watson, the “Babysitter to the Stars”, Details His Journey with the UFC | BJPENN.COM Radio
UFC fight coordinator Burt Watson, dubbed the “Babysitter to the Stars”, joined BJPENN.COM Radio this past Wednesday, May 1 to talk about his time with the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts.
Coming from a background of professional boxing, Watson was familiar with the organization and timing of combat sports, and with keeping a fight card on schedule. But in 2001, Watson made the transition from boxing to the still-growing sport of MMA, which at the time was still in its infancy in terms of popularity.
“My first event was UFC 30, which was back in 2001 and I really had no idea what MMA was. I knew what Kung Fu was, I knew Bruce Lee and I knew Bruce Leroy, and I had an idea of what it was all about. But actually that there was such a thing as organized MMA, I really didn’t know, of course, until I met Dana [White, UFC President] and got the introduction and got a shot to work it,” Watson said of his beginnings with the Super Bowl of Mixed Martial Arts.
With little knowledge of MMA as a sport, Watson said that he was more focused on making sure he did was he was there for than watching the fights themselves. That is, until he was able to finally realize just how demanding of a sport MMA was and is.
“Because of the fact that I worked as a coordinator, I wasn’t focused on watching and seeing what was going on in the cage, I was more interested and focused on getting my job done- kind of doing what it is that I do- than I was watching what was going on. But when I did get a chance to see it? Whew, man, that was a scary thing, you know? I looked at it and I said, ‘boy these are some tough boogers, baby.’ And they are; they are unbelievable athletes, they all can fight- everybody on this level can fight. They all can fight, they’re all dedicated to the sport, and commitment to it and doing it right keeps you around.”
His relationship with the UFC’s roster knows no bounds, as so many of the elite fighters recognize Watson for his ability to convey knowledge and keep fighters ready and aware on the brink of battle. It’s because of these relationships and the amount time he spends with the fighters, Watson says, that it’s difficult for him to watch some of the match-ups.
“Well you know, I spend all week [before a fight] with these guys; a whole week kind of giving them a comfort level and doing the things these guys need to get a comfort level and get in that cage, ‘cause that’s not an easy thing to do,” Watson began. “I’ve been around a little while, so it’s not only all week it’s been a lot of years that I’ve spent around these guys. So it’s real hard for me because they’ve become like my children. Of course I’m old as hell and older than most of ‘em, so they are just that. And it’s real hard to work with them all week, take them to the cage and see somebody lose a fight; that’s real tough, baby.”
Having only missed three events since he began working for the UFC, Watson is a recognizable figure for not only the fighters and staff, but the fans of UFC as well. It is because of his level of recognition that Watson realized how big the sport was getting.
“When I started walking around and [the fans] started recognizing me, I knew something was crazy. I knew something was going on,” Watson said with a chuckle.
Though he says he thoroughly enjoys his job, Watson understands that the growth of MMA as a sport, particularly the UFC, could lead to his role being scaled down. With the additions of Kenny Florian and Jon Anik on the UFC’s Fuel cards to take some pressure off Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, there could certainly be additions made that would take some of the pressure off the vocal coordinator.
At this point, however, Watson shows no signs of letting up.
To hear the full-length interview with Burt Watson, including his comparisons to how professional boxing shows are run with how the UFC puts on a card, as well as his own personal message to BJPENN.COM Radio, listen to the player below.