FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Auburn, Maine (April 28, 2022)
Born into a large family, surrounded by a community with a rich sports tradition and countless age-old rivalries, Glory Watson never needed to venture far from home to quench a lifelong thirst for competition.
Those aspects of her personality have kept shining through four years of consistent triumph in the New England Fights mixed martial arts cage, although one reward for which Watson doesn’t have to compete is the adulation of fans in her neck of the woods.
Although those folks likely would gravitate toward Watson, her 10,000-watt smile and inspiring nature anyhow, they’re a captive audience: Watson, of Brewer, is the only active female professional practitioner of MMA in her native Maine.
Watson (2-1), coming off a second-round stoppage of previously undefeated Alibeth Milliron out of Michigan in February, will confront New Jersey’s Natalie Schlesinger in a strawweight bout at NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” on Saturday, May 14. Opening bell time at Norway Savings Bank Arena is set for 7 p.m.
“The girl who went professional before, I think she’s been retired for quite a few years now, and I’m the second one,” Watson said. “There really aren’t too many pros in New England right now either. There’s a couple, but then you have to also take into account the weight classes and everything. There are very few women that we have to choose from. (NEF co-owner and matchmaker) Matt Peterson has been phenomenal about getting opponents since the very beginning. All the time, Coach (Chris Young) has been like, ‘Whatever you can get, we’ll take it.’ So that’s the just the way it goes.”
Watson, who turned pro after winning six of her seven amateur bouts, leaves the scouting report on her all-over-the-map rivals to Young.
“We do an eight-week fight camp, and usually at the very beginning Coach will tell me who my opponent is. We’ll watch one fight. Out of all the fights they’ve had, he’ll choose one,” Watson explained. “We’ll watch maybe not even all of it, sometimes one round, and then he’ll say, ‘OK, there you go. You’ve seen her.’ And then he kind of counter-coaches me, like if I were coaching a fighter to beat you, what would I do?
“That’s what we work on throughout camp, so I don’t have to focus on if she always throws this really big punch every time in every fight, so I’m not panicked about those things. I literally have to worry about what I’m doing. I think it’s a great mindset to have, because you’re worried about yourself and not afraid of what the other person’s going to do.”
Watson followed an increasingly common path to the sport for young women and men alike. The appeal of relighting those competitive fires aside, she simply sought a place to find personal refuge and get back into shape.
A strong student-athlete throughout her formative years, Watson stayed in that frame of mind at first.
“I always did sports in school. I was very active in athletics, and then right out of high school I was training for bodybuilding,” she said. “I did that for quite a few years. That’s where I learned about nutrition, lifting weights and all that stuff that’s kind of carried over into this.”
One milestone briefly threw her for a loop, however.
“I turned 21 and had a slightly crazy phase for maybe three months,” Watson recalled. “I stopped doing anything in the athletic regard during that time, and then just one day I was like, ‘You know what? I’m tired of feeling like this.’ I was about 170 pounds. It was by far the biggest I had ever been, and I was just really uncomfortable. I was having a lot of problems with depression and anxiety because of being overweight.”
Watson, now 27 and fighting at 115 pounds, fired off a text message to a family friend she knew was closely affiliated with Young’s MMA, asking if she could tag along at some point.
“She said, ‘Yeah, come in on Friday morning.’ We joke around at the gym because I came in and I never left,” Watson said. “I started doing double sessions a week or two in, and I did my first grappling tournament within two months. I was hooked.”
Grappling is often a gateway to the MMA cage, and with Young so heavily involved in that realm, it was only a matter of time before he tried to sell Watson on the idea.
“I had absolutely no intentions of fighting or competing or anything like that when I started. I really liked the athletic component of it because I was always competitive in school and then for a while outside of school,” Watson said. “I really liked the idea of having something I could strive to be better in and work at being better every single day, and there was so much to learn and so many different things.
“Then when Coach finally approached me and said, ‘So, do you want to fight?’ I was like, ‘Ha ha ha … I … guess.’ It really was kind of unexpected. I’d been training really hard for over a year when he approached me about it. We decided to take it, and I wouldn’t change it for the world now.”
The past few years have been a period of upheaval for Young’s MMA, but Watson is proud to be indelibly linked with the gym and its namesake.
“Obviously there’s been some hardships for Young’s MMA. Between losing facilities that we were in and just moving around from gym to gym and trying to find a home, we kind of lost some athletes along the way,” Watson said. “I have found really like my home. I know that’s really cliché. Everybody says it. But I have found the place that I like to go when I’m having a bad day, when I’m having a good day, anything.
“It’s where I want to go, and a lot of that does revolve around Coach Young, because he has created such a amazing environment, and he’s an absolutely phenomenal coach. I couldn’t say enough great things about him as a coach, and now at this point in my career I would call him a friend.”
Good friends push us, of course, and Young has done so with Watson by encouraging her to branch out all over Maine and New Hampshire, even in this time of $4 per gallon fuel.
“I actually train at multiple facilities now. Coach and myself travel to Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (in Lewiston/Auburn) once, maybe twice a week and train down there with their guys. I’ve done work with Jesse Erickson and Dustin Veinott,” Watson said. “One night a week we’ll travel to Rumford, and I train with Jason Bell and Ryan Burgess. I’ve been doing that for over a year now, and that’s been phenomenal for my game having a really talented jiu-jitsu practitioner and then a great wrestler. It’s usually just the three of us, but it’s been absolutely amazing.”
But wait … there’s more.
“On occasion I will travel to Nostos in New Hampshire to train with Devin and Carol Linn Powell and all the athletes that he has down there. I would not be where I am today as an athlete without all those different gyms and coaches and fighters. They’ve all helped with my career. A lot of people will say, ‘Why do you travel so much? Why do you do this so much?’ It is so invaluable all the different looks you get, all the little tiny pieces, techniques that you pick up from other people that you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, I really like that,’ and you wouldn’t have seen that at another gym. The traveling is really hard at times. It can be exhausting. I can’t imagine how much mileage I’ve put on my vehicle. I’m afraid to actually check. But it’s amazing.”
Friends, family and that ever-growing collection of fans have followed suit, faithfully tracking the fighter they know and love as “The Fury” in Bangor, Orono, Portland and Lewiston, as well as Massachusetts, New York and Florida, and now Auburn.
“I really like fighting for NEF, because it’s so close to home. I have a huge fan base that is located in Bangor where I am, so fighting closer to home is great, because more people are able to make it. It’s exciting going to Auburn, doing a new venue and starting that,” Watson said. “I have a huge family. A majority of the tickets that I sell are to my family. When I initially get tickets, I usually have about 40 of them spoken for just from family. My fan support has been huge since the very beginning because of it being family, but now that I’ve kind of ‘grown up’ in MMA in New England, I kind of have a fan base all over the state as well.”
Taking that show to the world stage, of course, is the ultimate attraction.
“The end game is definitely to make it as far as I possibly can,” Watson said. “The goal for every fighter should be to be the best in the world, to have the UFC belt around your waist and say I am the best at what I do. That is ultimately my goal, and I just kind of chug along every day and try to get closer.”
NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” is the organization’s first appearance in Lewiston-Auburn since June 22, 2019, and its inaugural card on the opposite side of the river. NEF held 25 of its first 30 dockets in Lewiston. The main event is a grudge match between former local stablemates Jesse “The Viking” Erickson and Matt “Ken Doll” Denning. Tickets are on sale now at www.NewEnglandFights.com/Tickets.