UFC middleweight Tom Watson (16-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) may not be a household name or ranked fighter, but that doesn't mean his aspirations fall short of earning a world championship.
"Whenever I'm with an organization, the goal is to become the champion and – that's what the belt represents," Watson told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "The UFC is the same when I signed. I signed to be the champion, I didn't sign to face some UFC fighters and have a good time."
After splitting his first two trips to the octagon, the 31-year-old is just days away from his opportunity to truly let fans know what he's all about when he makes his UFC pay-per-view debut against Thales Leites (20-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) at UFC 163.
Leites was a UFC title challenger himself once upon a time, and a victory over him, especially inside the hostile HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, would raise Watson's stock higher than ever before. His fight with Leites is on the pay-per-view main card following prelims on FX and Facebook.
Even though Leites is making a return to the UFC after a nearly four-year absence, he still is the most notable name "Kong" has fought to date.
He will provide a true test for Watson and help determine whether or not his dream of fighting for a world title ever has the chance of becoming reality.
While Leites may carry more weight in terms of name value than any of Watson's previous opponents, the Englishman has the utmost faith he will be victorious on Saturday and believes anything other than that type of self-confidence would be a red flag. "Anybody in your division, you should believe you can beat," said Watson. "If you don't, then you should look for a different career path."
In a division that is top-heavy with such names as Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, Watson is aware of the long and painful road to the top, but knows he will get there.
It's simple; he wouldn't compete if his career expectations were anything less than holding UFC gold.
"I signed to be No. 1, and that's why I do this sport," he said. "So if that's not going to be an option, then I'll retire today."