He keeps his hands down low like he’s driving a convertible: a Bentley with a leather interior. You can hear his internal engine wind up as he screams out “Zeap.” His hip whips around and his leg accelerates into the trainer’s pad. He’s Jordan Watson, one of the United Kingdom’s best Muay Thai fighters.
I met Jordan Watson as he was getting ready for his daily run. He came up with a porcelain grin, an unnaturally white veneer that he later told me were false. He’d had his front teeth knocked out by when an opponent threw a spinning back elbow into his English mug.
“They came out before I got on the plane,” Watson said, conjuring up the image of a Bently without a front bumper. “It was a bit of a rush. I had to hit up the dentist an hour before I was to get on the plane.”
He made it though, and arrived at Yokkao in the heart of Bangkok where he has been spending the last 2 weeks in preparation for his rematch against Sanny Dahlbeck.
“I came out here to tune things up. When you are at the same gym you do the same things. Here though I have a different padman and also I have a ton of sparring partners.” While he comes from the highly regarded Bad Company gym, at times his fellow stablemates, such as Liam Harrison and Stephen Meleady, are not always available as they all fight regularly. “When I am gearing up for a fight Harrison will have just fought and be winding down, so he’s not always available. Here in Thailand though there’s always someone to spar with, train with. If someone just fought, there is another guy ready to go tomorrow. I like the consistency of training here although there is a bit more strength and conditioning in England. ”
Watson pulled his socks up high and began running. The afternoon run around Benjataski park was at a brisk clip like an initial lap around a track prepping the cars for the inevitable race. Once back at the gym he wound down and slipped off his shoes showing me blisters from the frequent running. The inevitable wear and tear of running over 10 miles a day.
He turned on the music and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” came on ,appropriate given Watson’s 21 knock outs in the ring. As the music picked up tempo so did Watson’s shadowboxing. The 28 year old has spent the majority of his life in the fight game, fighting for a variety of rule sets including K-1 and Glory. “I like fighting for Glory a bit better,” he said when asked to compare different rule sets other than Muay Thai. “You can clinch a bit longer than in K-1.”
The early 90s rap was followed by 112’s “Peaches and Crème.” As the American R & B quartet crooned about getting freaky in a Bently limosine, Watson got into the ring and slipped on his gloves. “I don’t like to wear handwraps,” he said as he dowsed himself with water to cool himself from the Thai heat. “They feel constricting… but maybe it’s because I’ve been wrapping my hands wrong for the last 20 years,” he said with a laugh. Regardless of the condition of his handwraps, Watson began to hit hard with an intensity unlike fans had seen a year ago.
After his knock out loss to Dahlbeck at Yokkao 12 in April of 2015, Watson took some time off. “After my loss against Dahlbeck I had to rethink things. I wasn’t living the life of a fighter. I was taking things for granted. I scraped through fights on my natural ability. Against Dahlbeck though I was humiliated. I asked myself do I really want to live the life of a fighter? I decided I wanted to. It’s been a real positive change for me. I’ve stopped going out, I’m eating better.” Watson also has been using mind coach Vinny Shoreman whom he said helps put things into perspective. “A lot of people think you go to a mind coach because you are weak, but really you are just sharpening your tools. “
Now Watson is looking sharper than ever along with his renewed regiment and dedication, evident in his now visibly better shape, he has also begun to take up secondary education in nutrition. While he works regularly at Bad Company as a Personal Trainer he is also looking to the future having enrolled in weekend courses.
The rematch against Dahlbeck comes after a recent win against Jordan Pikkeur whom Dahlbeck lost to in July for the K-1 tournament via KO in the second round after some hard hooks from Pikkeur. When asked if his win over Pikkeur and loss to another common opponent Aikpracha Meenotinin, would affect him Watson said, “I used to evaluate how fighters did against each other, and how they would do against me subsequently, but styles make fights. You can fight a guy that’s really good against everybody but your style doesn’t work for him so it’s an easy bout for you. Also you don’t know what’s going on at the time with your opponent; how they are training… You have to be open to changes and adapt.”
When Watson was done with his padwork he smashed on the bag, clinched, and engaged in a finishing round of kicking drills, walking down Yokkao’s astroturfed corridor whacking pads as his trainer held them for his left kick, then his right kick, then his left kick… He kept walking pushing his interior engine to the limit screaming out “Zeap.”