It was a confrontation with a "person of authority" -- and not with a fighter or camp member -- that led to Burt Watson's abrupt departure from UFC 184 last month in Los Angeles.
Watson, the former UFC event coordinator, explained to Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour that he was contacted via phone by a Zuffa authority figure following a travel miscommunication after weigh-ins Feb. 27 and spoken to in a way he found to be disrespectful.
Watson, the glue that held the UFC backstage area together, quit after the conversation and did not attend UFC 184 the following day.
"I was approached and it was not in a proper manner, at least in my opinion," Watson said. "I was questioned about my work, about the way I handled things. That's the way I felt. Quite honestly, I didn't appreciate it. I didn't approve of it."
UFC 184 fighter Mark Munoz missed weight on his first attempt and had to stay at the LA Live Events Center to weigh in again. After the second weigh-in, Munoz was somehow left with no way of getting back to the hotel and he didn't arrive until about an hour later, Watson said. The hotel was only about 10 minutes away from LA Live. Watson said he still isn't sure what happened, because he personally sent transportation to pick him up.
After Munoz returned to the hotel after successfully making weight, Watson greeted him and everything seemed fine. Then Watson got a call from a UFC official, whose name he would not disclose. That conversation, which Watson found offensive, resulted in him calling it quits after 14 years with the UFC. Watson did clarify that it was not UFC president Dana White, CEO Lorenzo Fertitta or fellow operations coordinator Donna Marcolini and he has never had a problem with any of those three.
Watson said he did not understand why it happened the way it did and called it "unprovoked." He did admit that he himself could have handled it with a cooler head and that sometimes he can be "flip-lipped." But Watson is supremely confident in his coordination process and did not think he deserved to be ripped.
"How that happened or how it escalated to the point where I got a phone call from somebody that spoke that way to me, I don't know," Watson said.
Watson, 66, said Marcolini did contact him after UFC 184 with the hope that she could change his mind. Watson, though, will stand by his decision to leave. And he does not regret it.
"What has happened was not the face of what I would have wanted as an end of my 14-year career," Watson said. "But it's like, I'm a hoodrat with an education. In the streets, if you beat me once you're gonna always have in your head that you can beat me again. If you beat me down and I let you and I come back, you know what? You're gonna beat me until I leave. Because you got in your head, 'I can beat you.' And that's just the way life is."
Watson, a Philadelphia native who was once the manager of legendary boxer Joe Frazier, seemed to expect more leeway in the situation from the official considering he has been doing it for so long and is universally adored by fighters and those in the industry.
"You respect the process," Watson said. "You respect the system. And sometimes before you make certain decisions, respect the creator of the system. There's a reason why a mother would leave her cubs in the cave. She's gotta go find some food, baby. But she comes back. If you go in there and see those cubs by themselves, she's either out getting food, hunting for the kill or she's dead. But she didn't just leave them cubs just to be leaving them."
Watson said he has not spoken to the official since the phone call.
"No," he said. "I don't ever plan to. No, not at all. It's a done situation."
The only reason why Watson has decided to speak in the media is because he saw rumors online that he left because of issues he had with Munoz or Ronda Rousey's team, which Watson vehemently denies.
"When I started hearing that, I said, 'I need to address that,'" Watson said. "These guys, I lived for these guys. I loved those guys for 14 years. When I see them being disturbed about something, I figured I needed to put some kind of a lid on top of it."
Watson, who was dubbed by Joe Rogan as "The Babysitter to the Stars." said he has spoken to Munoz since and Munoz was apologetic, but did not have to be.
"I know that kid," Watson said. "I know that he takes everything to heart. I know that it's his life. He reached out to me in a text and I called him back to let him know that I have no qualms with you, baby. And that's exactly how I've said it."
While it doesn't seem that Watson will ever return to the UFC, he also did seem confident that he would work somewhere -- just not at "that level of pace" again. Watson, who was at every UFC event unless there were two in one day or two in consecutive days far apart, said at one point he did eight shows in 10 weeks.
He added that right now he wants to rest and spend time with his family. But the word "retirement" does seem to be a bit premature. Watson, who was so much more than the guy who pumped up fighters with his "We Rollin'!" catchphrase, will be back in some capacity somewhere one day, perhaps soon.
"Believe me, I am not gonna just drop off the face of the Earth," he said. "That's just not gonna happen. And if it does, you're gonna hear me on the way down, because I'll be rollin' right."
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