Josh Watson proved a lot of people wrong — including, in his eyes, people within the BKFC organization — when he brutally knocked out Greg Hardy at Knucklemania 3.
In a main card heavyweight bout, Hardy was a massive favorite heading into his fight with Watson, but things went south for the former UFC fighter and NFL defensive player when he was dropped late in the first round, and eventually finished in the second.
The 40-year-old Watson knew he was flying under the radar heading into the fight, and throughout fight week, he wanted it to stay that way.
“I knew he was forgetting about me,” Watson told MMA Fighting. “I knew he wasn’t looking at me. I wasn’t even a blip on his radar, and I wanted to stay that way. There’s been some fun things that have happened at BKFC weigh-ins — I kind of wanted to join in on some of the fun, maybe go viral, but I was like, you know what? It wasn’t that I wanted to piss him off to make him mad at me — I didn’t want to piss him off for him to continue to not even think about me. I didn’t want to be a thought on his mind.
“I kept being cordial with him, even gave him a little dap before we walked out. We never really talked, but when we did, we were always super, super nice, because he wasn’t even thinking about me, and I just fed into it, and that’s the reason I came out swinging. Because I never do that in my fights, and again, he’s not expecting me to be anything, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to go surprise the f*** out of him.’”
And that’s what Watson did. He stormed out of the gates with big combinations, however it appeared that Hardy soon settled in, using his size and range to jab away at Watson.
Watson says there was more to it than just Hardy having success. It wasn’t that Watson was being outboxed — it was that he was in panic mode after Hardy threw his first punch.
“In that time he looked to have settled in, he poked me in the eye,” Watson explained. “There’s a good photo of it. That very first punch, he poked me. I was basically blind in my right eye for the first minute of the fight. My left eye saw three of him, and I was in panic mode. When you’re in that panic, your body is tight, you overexaggerate your movements, and it kind of exhausts you — and that’s what was happening, because I was really scared and I couldn’t see s***. The round went on, as I could see more, I started to relax, and when he threw me to the ground, I was like, ‘I’m just going to take a few moments, try to catch my breath.’ And when I clinched with him, I calmed down and caught him with that one hook.
“It was fight or flight for that first minute and a half because I was panicking. I couldn’t see s***.”
After his knockdown in the first round, Watson had a nasty cut over his eye and blood pouring down his face. In what could’ve been an unfortunate way for the fight to end, Hardy was essentially saved by the bell, and before the second round began, referee Dan Miragliotta and commission doctors appeared to look at the cut.
In the eyes of the viewer, it looked as if the fight could’ve been stopped. But Watson was given the green light to continue — or at least, that’s how it looked during the live viewing.
“We still haven’t figured out what cracked my head open,” Watson said. “I drop him, Miragliotta separates us, and this waterfall of blood cascades down my forehead. I was like, ‘S***, this is bad, this might get stopped,’ and right when that happened, my coach yelled 13 seconds, and from there, I’m like, ‘S***, hurry up and get up and let me hit you one more time.’ In my mind, I might not get a second round. And it was funny because I saw Miragliotta at the airport the next day, and he knew it — he saw it in my body language, he saw that I was trying to get it restarted as fast as we possibly could and he was taking his time.
“There’s been a lot of different views of it. It seems like the doctor wanted to take a look at it, and I kind of blew him off. I don’t really remember it that way. I definitely remember him being on the side of the ring, I, clear as day, remember my coach saying, ‘He’s fine, he can fight,’ and the doctor looking at him. The way they wiped, I got vasoline in my eye. I stood up and was like, ‘Wait, now I can’t see s***. Wipe my eye. No, f****** wipe it,’ and it was, OK, cool, we’re good. It was like Miragliotta wanted me to talk to the doctor, doctor wanted to talk to me, and as soon as I got my eye wiped, I was like, ‘No, let’s go. We’re fighting.’
“That might’ve been how it went, but I wasn’t trying to blow anybody off. I wasn’t trying to ignore the doctor. But yeah, everybody said, ‘You ignored the doctor and said, f*** it, I’m fighting.’ I knew I needed to get him out of there quick because he was going to keep hitting it and it was going to get worse.”
Knowing the leash was short due to the nasty gash on his face, Watson was well aware his time was limited to get Hardy out of there before things got worse. Seconds later, “Stay Down” landed a nasty combination that sent Hardy to the floor, and kept him there.
The patented Watson pose came thereafter, along with a thunderous reception from the crowd in Albuquerque, N.M., along with fans around the world on social media.
“When he went down in the first round, I knew he was going to pop back up — and I have the ‘Stay Down’ Watson pose, it’s on my knuckles and I needed to have that pose over him with my knuckles,” Watson said. “I wasn’t going to waste my chance. Then when he went down the second time, I thought, ‘He’s done, this is happening, f*** it, put the knuckles up. He’s staying down.’”
Before his career ends, the longtime native of Maine is hoping he can compete close to home, and if he does, that would likely be his final fight.
While it doesn’t seem like a BKFC trip to New England will be coming anytime soon, Watson — after speaking with BKFC president David Feldman — believes he’ll have plenty of big opportunities to keep him busy.
“Everybody loves to see the underdog win, that’s a bonus,” Watson said. “It was a really good response. As much as people were doubting me, everybody to my face was like, ‘You got this,’ and it made me believe more that I had it. I was actually surprised by how much of a speed bump in the road I was supposed to be organizationally. Everyone thought Greg would beat me and fight Ben Rothwell April 29 in Denver. That was the road, and that’s completely derailed now.
“After I caught him, there’s a picture if me reaching through the ropes yelling to [Feldman] that I wanted the knockout of the night bonus, which I got, but he was telling me, ‘Don’t even worry about that, I’ve got bigger plans for you.’ He yelled that outside the ring, and said that at the post-fight press conference as well.”