Note: All quotes and material were obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report through a one-on-one between Luke Harris and Bleacher Report's Riley Kontek.
First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Luke Harris, and I’m a Canadian middleweight. I own and operate the Hayabusa Training Centre Ltd. in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada. I’m also the founder of Hayabusa Fightwear and hold a master’s degree from Penn State.
My MMA record is 10-2 with all my wins coming by way of first-round submission. I’m a blackbelt in both judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I'd like to thank Bleacher Report and the UFC for giving me the opportunity to share my blog, and I thank you for reading. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it and find that I have a unique perspective on the show. It was an incredible opportunity and so far the pinnacle of my MMA career. Here's how it played out…
I said bye to my wife and dog and flew off to Montreal for the start of the show. Before even getting to the house, I met my team and we headed off to the UFC gym. Walking into that gym was a dream come true. I’ve been working toward this goal for seven years and have had a long road, which hasn’t been a easy one, but I chose fighting because it’s the single most challenging thing I could think of doing.
I’ve been close to being on TUF several times, but it’s finally come to fruition.
From the get-go, I knew we had a very strong team. I knew most of the guys from the Canadian MMA scene, and I can assure you that we have lots of the top guys in the country.
Most of the guys were fighting up a weight class except for Elias Theodorou and myself. At the gym, we met up with Patrick Cote and our coaching staff. It was pretty awesome having Cote as a coach because he’s been fighting in the UFC for a decade. He made his debut against Tito Ortiz and has fought Anderson Silva for the MW strap, showing how accomplished he is. He was also on TUF and made it to the finale.
I’ve known Cote for years, and he even came to my gym for two weeks as part of his last fight camp. He knows my ability well. The other coaches are BJJ black belt Fabio Holanda, Olympic wrestler David Zilberman and muay thai Kru Ash. It was a very solid coaching staff.
All of us Canadians felt pretty good about our team and how we stacked up against the Aussies. I knew of Kyle Noke and had researched several of the other middleweights. I knew they had decent MMA records but hadn’t faced the same level of competition as I have. My last three fights were all UFC-caliber opponents (Edwin Dewees, Joseph Henle, Jason Zentgraf). I have no idea how Kyle Noke is as a coach, but he seems like a super nice guy.
We won the coin toss, which was a pretty huge advantage. Kajan Johnson was just itching to fight first. He had some injuries, but the kid is really talented. He has a lot of experience at 30 fights. His opponent only had five, albeit an undefeated record. Our coaches watched O’Reilly’s fights and thought it would be a good matchup.
I was personally a bit nervous. Kajan is a very well-rounded fighter and has all the talent in the world, but he was coming off a two-year layoff because of a serious orbital injury. I knew he wanted it; I just prayed that he doesn’t get injured. I always get more nervous when my teammates or students fight than when I fight myself. That being said, I predicted Kajan to win. He’s just too good and a beast on the ground.
Coming into the competition, I felt that the Canadian team was stronger. At this point, I predicted an all-Canadian middleweight final with myself vs. Nordine Taleb or Elias Theodorou. That being said, until we got through the Aussies in the quarterfinals, fighting a Canadian teammate was the furthest thing from my mind. We are a team, and that mentality gives us some great training sessions.
Moving into the house was pretty cool. We had it good compared to other seasons of TUF. The log cabin was incredible and overlooked a pristine forest. This is much more my style than being in the city. Having five guys in the same room and having cameras on you at all times was going to be strange. I'm a private person outside of the gym and fighting, so it took some time to adjust.
It was pretty cool to hear Kajan say that he saw me as a favorite to win. He’s a good dude. We crossed paths several times over the years on the Canadian MMA scene. I wish for nothing but the best for him.
Talking to Dana also hit home. I think that’s the point where I really realized what we had all accomplished making it here. For many of us, it has taken years and we had to make many sacrifices along the way, but it's all worth it now. We’re the fortunate ones who have been given this opportunity. Now, just need to do something with it.
The fight went as expected. Brendan was tough as nails, but in the end, Kajan caught him on the ground. I’m so proud of Kajan. He's been through more adversity than most, and he’s still moving forward. I really admire that about him. He’s got a warrior spirit. Most fighters would have quit long before this point. He really deserves to be here.
The next fight pick was Elias vs. Zein Saliba. I was okay with not fighting first, as my weight wasn’t where I wanted it to be yet. I dieted down from 220 to 200 pounds in the last few weeks before the show, and I planned to get a bit lower before my final cut.
Elias was ready to go and considerably larger than Zein. That, coupled with Elias’ high-paced fighting style, led us to believe that Elias would get the victory. The coaches had scouted Brendan perfectly, and we all felt that they made a good decision putting Elias vs. Zein. My prediction was a dominant decision for Elias. He just needs to be mindful of Zein’s ground game.
**Tune in next week to hear Luke's thoughts on the continued tension between teams, more in-depth stories from the house and his thoughts on the fight between Elias Theodorou and Zein Saliba.