If you want to make it as a mixed martial artist, you have to be willing to adapt. That means being able to adapt to your opponent’s fighting style, or realizing that you could spend your entire training camp preparing to face one fighter, only to have it change at the last minute because of an injury or for some other reason.
That’s what happened to Rob “Ares” Watley. He was originally supposed to face Cole Presley at Shogun Fights 13 in Baltimore on Oct. 24 for the promotion’s inaugural lightweight title. But Presley had to withdraw from the bout due to injury, so Watley will now face Shogun Fights veteran Dan Root for the belt.
“Honestly, my training doesn’t really change,” Watley told Combat Press. “I tweak a few things here and there, but I don’t cater my camp to my opponents. I work on bettering myself in each aspect of the sport and then maybe add in a few techniques that my coaches and I believe will help me frustrate and hurt my opponent.”
Watley originally requested to fight Root, but was told Root could not make the 155-pound weight limit at that time. Watley is excited that Root was ultimately able to make weight and accepted the fight.
“[I am] looking forward to doing battle with a war-tested veteran,” he said.
Watley was a multi-sport athlete growing up, first competing in taekwondo. He wanted to partake in other sports, but his parents required that he achieve a black belt before moving on. Having done just that, Watley progressed to playing football in college at Southeast Missouri State. But it was when he watched The Ultimate Fighter with friends that Watley decided to give MMA a try.
“I thought I could do that, and I wanted to try my hand at it,” he said.
Watley trains at Royal Martial Arts in Waldorf, Md., and Conquest BJJ in Crofton, Md., which is home to his teammate Micah Terrill, a fellow title contender at Shogun Fights 13 who faces Jeremy Carper for the welterweight title.
“I love competing and putting everything on the line,” said Watley, who was 3-2 as an amateur before turning pro last year, where he has compiled a 4-1 record. “Every day I humble myself to be a student of the game and a more well-rounded mixed martial artist.”
Watley is also a veteran of Shogun Fights, having competed for the organization three times. His most recent appearance with the promotion came at Shogun Fights 12 earlier this year, where Watley secured a first-round submission victory.
“I feel the love at Shogun Fights,” Watley said. “They’re adding some world-class athletes to the sport, and I love to compete in front of friends and family and people that support me.”
Watley has his sights set on eventually competing in the UFC, but he also has loftier goals for his fighting career. He wants to use his talents to build toward creating a union for fighters.
“MMA doesn’t have a union, so fighters are getting screwed,” Watley said. “I look at all fighters as my brothers. I want to help make it better for them by being the best.”