Glory Watson was tapering down her training for Saturday’s NEF 44 mixed martial arts bout at the Hampshire Dome in Milford, New Hampshire, when the phone rang last weekend with news of a positive COVID-19 test.
It wasn’t Watson who tested positive — she already dealt with the coronavirus during the spring.
This time it was her scheduled opponent, Rebecca Bryggman, who contracted the illness. Suddenly, their fight was off.
“I was messaging my opponent asking how she was feeling and she said, ‘I feel awful,’” Watson said.
Some quick work by New England Fights officials has presented the 27-year-old Watson, who trains at Young’s MMA in Orrington, a new opponent in a slightly different combat sports discipline: kickboxing.
Watson, who lost her pro MMA debut in March after a 6-1 amateur career that included capturing the NEF women’s amateur bantamweight championship, will face Hilarie Rose. Rose’s 5-3 pro MMA record includes an appearance on Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White’s Contender Series.
“We reached out to different females to see if anyone would take the fight,” she said. “The original goal was to try to do an [MMA] exhibition, but the New Hampshire commission doesn’t allow professionals to do an exhibition match, so it ended up with us doing a professional kickboxing fight.”
Rose, who trains in Bellingham, Massachusetts, is a former NEF women’s amateur strawweight champion.
“MMA is a brutal sport, fights come and go all the time,” Watson said. “Hilarie Rose agreed to a professional kickboxing bout on short notice. I am grateful to her dedication to the sport and respect the career she has built. I am excited to test my skills against a veteran mixed martial artist.”
Unlike MMA, kickboxing is a fully stand-up combat sport featuring strikes and kicks and no fighting on the mat. Rounds are 3 minutes each, compared with 5 minutes for a pro MMA round.
“Both fighters are known for their striking,” NEF matchmaker and co-owner Matt Peterson said. “So to boil the rules of competition down to the essence of what they both excel at will make for such an exciting firefight. You couldn’t script a better outcome given the circumstances.”
Watson’s pro kickboxing debut will be her first combat sports experience since she lost by first-round submission to Ariana Melendez in Plant City, Florida, on March 27.
“Technically it wasn’t a bad fight,” Watson said. “I did things wrong and [Melendez] did things right, and she capitalized on that. It wasn’t necessarily that I had a whole bunch of things I needed to fix or I was doing things wrong. It literally was that I got caught because of a stupid little mistake.”
Watson contracted COVID-19 about six weeks after that and quarantined for 10 days after being tested.
“It wasn’t the sickest I’ve ever been, for me the hardest part was the recovery,” she said. “The heaviness in my chest when going back to training was very difficult.”
The Watson-Rose kickboxing match is one of four professional bouts among approximately 20 fights scheduled at NEF 44.
Josh Harvey, who trains at Vision Quest Muay Thai & Fitness in Newport, will seek to rebound from his first pro loss when he faces Ian Beatease of Schuylerville, New York, in a 145-pound MMA bout. Harvey brings a 7-1-1 record into the matchup.
Two title fights top the amateur portion of the card. Mike Bezanson (5-0) will challenge longtime NEF amateur welterweight champion Duncan Smith (6-3), while Nathaniel Grimard (3-0) and Brandon Maillet-Fevens (3-1) meet for the vacant NEF amateur featherweight crown.
The show will be available to fans via pay-per-view live stream at combatsportsnow.com/event/new-england-fights-44.