For every down moment of an athlete’s career, there will always be a window of opportunity that leads to something good. Some athletes take time to free their mind of all distress before they move through that window of opportunity, which allows them to remain focused on achieving their goals. Others, in contrast, want to get back to action as soon as possible.

Heading into 2014, Walel Watson knew he needed to turn things around. After getting released from the UFC in 2012, Watson scored two wins, ran on a two-fight skid, with the more recent of the two losses coming last November, and then received word from his manager, Lex McMahon, about another opportunity to fight. Things, however, did not work out as simply as hearing about a fight and taking it, as Watson’s original bookings all fell through.

“I was originally scheduled to fight four different people,” Watson told The MMA Corner, “but everybody kept getting hurt, and William Joplin popped up, but Lex McMahon was the one that connected me with Titan FC, got me signed with them, and everything. After that, the rest was history.”

Watson needed an opponent that would come in on fight night as a game foe, and Joplin proved himself as the man to fit the bill. Joplin came into the fight as a 9-8 fighter, but before Watson, he rode a seven-fight winning streak, and looked to make for an intense battle with Watson. Given that Watson got a hungry opponent like Joplin in front of him, and also that the finish came at 2:29 of round 3, Watson could take plenty from his efforts, but the biggest thing he took away was how much he felt his game improved.

When Titan FC 30 comes to Cedar Park, TX on Friday night, Watson will get the chance to show off those very improvements. The opposition for him comes in the form of TUF 18 cast member Anthony Gutierrez. Despite issues making weight on the show, Gutierrez has the distinction of having submitted four of his five pro opponents. Add in the fact that Gutierrez comes in at nearly the same height as Watson, as well as Gutierrez’s use of the rubber guard of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu fame, and this fight intends to deliver something as spectacular as Watson’s more recent affairs.

“This kid’s young, he’s strong, and we’re both tall, so we’re both going to be rangy fighters. He’s a kickboxer, I’m a boxer, and I know my grappling is going to be better than his definitely on the ground, but it makes for an exciting fight when you got a young kid like that who has all the physical tools it takes to make it a good fight. From what I understand, he’s not going to back away; when I watch all of his fights, he tries to kick-box, he tries to impose his will and that’s what I do in my fights, I come forward, and I try to impose my will, so it’s going to be a great fight right there.

“He plays a little bit of a rubber guard, but I’ve [worked hard in] that rubber guard system, and that’s what I do day in and day out, all day, every day, so there’s no in or out to the rubber guard that I’m not going to understand or that I’m not going to know how to defend, and from what I see, the guy plays a lot of gis, so that doesn’t transfer into MMA whatsoever. I don’t put the gi on, I don’t touch the gi, I don’t look at the gi. I understand the grip and I understand how to use it for MMA. We might be a little even on the feet, but on the ground, it’s just two different worlds.

“I won’t give up, and I won’t quit. I’ve been in positions before where guys just want to lay on top or guys just want to wrestle the entire time, and what I’ve done is I’ve developed my game for that, and now if you don’t want to stand with me, or if you think you’re just going to grapple on the ground, that’s fine. I’m adapting my game and I’m ready for that.”

Walel would like to thank his coaches, teammates, and the staff at Team Hurricane Awesome, as well as 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, all of his sponsors, and everyone that supported him in the weeks and months leading to this fight. Follow Walel on Twitter: @WaleltheGazelle

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.