"Interesting statement from Dave Branch's corner. They said 'five minutes -- it takes you less than that to finish most people.' Gerald Harris isn't 'most people.'" - Joe Rogan, UFC 116
Gerald Harris didn't have an easy road to the UFC. He didn't have an easy road once he got there either. Or after, for that matter.
Harris got into mixed martial arts by chance, more because he needed to than wanted to. He was walking two miles to the gym, when his friend and eventual manager Scott Nickerson told him he could earn $600 by winning a fight.
"I told him I needed to do some roofing, or cut some grass because my car broke down, and I was walking like two miles to the gym," Harris said with a smile you could hear even over the phone. "He said 'why don't you fight?' I said I hadn't fought since sixth grade. He said 'They'll give you $600!,' and I said 'sign me up!' He didn't tell me it was $300 and $300. I had to win the other $300."
With the winnings, Harris was able to purchase a Mustang that barely functioned, but it got the eventual "Hurricane" to and from his job to support himself.
"One door didn't roll down, the windows didn't roll down, the heat didn't work, the AC didn't work , the windshield wipers didn't work. My door was the only door that worked. You had to pull up on it with pliers, but it drove," Harris said
Harris started his career at 7-0, piling up the wins in only eight months. Harris was given a spot in the ill-fated IFL where his undefeated streak would end in a controversial split decision loss to Fabio Leopoldo. A loss to the much more experienced Benji Radach led to Harris having to fight on the regional circuit yet again -- but not for long.
In a matter of months, Harris was selected to appear on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter reality series. He was selected by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and was featured alongside Matt Brown, Fightful.com's Matt Riddle, eventual big-name nutritionist Mike Dolce, CB Dollaway and others. Harris defeated Mike Marello with relative ease to get into the "TUF House."
Harris lost his preliminary round fight to eventual TUF winner Amir Sadollah, but it was the relationship that Harris formed with Jackson that really paid off. The two became friends, and Harris said that he looked at Jackson as an older brother.
The relationship was an important one for Harris. Back on the regional circuit after coming up short on The Ultimate Fighter, tragedy struck the Harris family. In March 2009, Harris' brother Corey was killed in an auto accident when a driver struck him on his motorcycle. Harris fought only 8 days later, knocking his opponent out in just under 100 seconds. The friendship forged with the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jackson helped Harris personally and professionally.
"Rampage is literally like a big brother to me, especially after I lost my oldest brother," Harris explained. "Rampage is probably 6 months older than me, but the guy took me under his wing, and took care of me. He knew I was never using him, I was always there for the guy. I consider him a brother for real, because of the way he treated me. He saw a lot of himself in me. Rampage is probably one of the realest friends I got. I do thank that guy for all he's done for me. I went and helped him with his takedown defense. I'm a southpaw, and he had a couple of possible opponents that were southpaws. He always took care of me, and he didn't have to."
Harris, who was dubbed "Little Rampage," would fly out to England and train with Jackson for several months, and later be called in to help a couple of Rampage's teammates train for fights. Still, Harris was looking for his shot. He was a 14-2 professional fighter, winning six straight fights since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter. The creative Harris took it upon himself to make sure UFC President Dana White knew who he was.
"What I did was called up (to MMA Junkie radio with Dana White on it.) and (in a British accent) said 'Hello mate, I think you should bring that Gerald Harris guy back, he was awesome,' and he was like 'Yeah! That Gerald Harris guy, I remember him!' and I was like 'man, this IS Gerald Harris.' The whole studio started busting out laughing. Mind you, I called about 50 times to get through. I was like 'what do I do?' I can't just call and beg to get back in, so the prank stuck with him. I will never forget it, he text me about a week later and said ' I'm on it bro.' a week after that, I was signed. I had just knocked out Nissen Osterneck and took a last second fight on six day's notice," Harris recalls.
The aptly nicknamed "Hurricane" didn't disappoint. He knocked out John Salter and earned "Knockout of the Night" honors. He finished the then-undefeated Mario Miranda in the first round. Then the big one -- a highlight reel slam knockout of Dave Branch at UFC 116 that was shown on highlight reels around the world, including ESPN. That one earned him "Knockout of the Night" honors, too.
"That was probably (one of) the greatest nights of my life in mixed martial arts," Harris said. "I worked so hard to be there. Daniel Cormier was my corner man that night, he forgot my banner (laughs)! He taught me so much that week. I've never publicly thanked him, but he's the reason why I slammed Branch that night. That slam alone was a position me and Daniel had worked on against the cage."
Things looked great for Harris. 3-0 in the UFC's Middleweight division with two knockout bonuses. A fight with UFC newcomer Maiquel Falcao at UFC 123 was looked at as many fans by a step back for Harris. As it turns out, it was probably the biggest setback in his MMA career.
"I get like Maiquel Falcao, who was like 26-4 with 25 finishes, with no video, none! I gotta fight these guys blind, but they have video on me. That's why I was so hesitant when I fought, I didn't know if Falcao was orthodox, southpaw, good right hand, good kicks. That's hard, man," Harris said.
The fight was a disaster for almost all involved. It's considered one of the more boring fights in UFC history, going all three rounds. It's a minor miracle that the fight even went the distance. In a testament to his toughness, Harris says he was actually out in the first round.
"I got knocked out in the first round," Harris remembers. "I woke up in the third round, and since I won the third round, I thought I had won the fight. I didn't really wake up until I did my drug test. You go into a trance, just airplane mode. He comes in with this blazing combo in the first round, and I'm out. He woke me up with hammer fist."
The fight was odd for many reasons -- there was a clock error early in the fight, and many thought that Harris had actually submitted at one point.
"I hate this rumor. I watched the fight a thousand times, and I never submitted. Did I grab his wrist? Yeah. I never tapped, I gave a thumbs up. I would never fake tap, ever. I would never disrespect the Gracie family like that.," Harris vehemently said.
Despite the performance and dropping the fight, Harris was 3-1 in the UFC. So when the UFC announced his release three days after UFC 123, the mixed martial arts world was shocked. So was Harris, and understandably so. It was called by many the worst UFC cut of all time. There were rumors that maybe there was more to the situation. If so, that information never surfaced. How could this happen?
"I have so much respect for the people in the UFC, and if I say anything, it feels like I'm bad-mouthing them, but I'll explain. One of the highest people involved in the UFC walked up to me as I go up to my van limping, hurt and says 'You fought your ass off, I've never seen somebody run like that before, you're safe.' Looked me dead in my eye, and that Tuesday I got cut. It was wrong, I didn't deserve it," Harris said, with a sound of disappointment in his voice.
- From The Web