Gerald Harris is all dressed up with no place to go. Or at least, no one to fight when he gets there.
Currently on a 10-fight win streak, the UFC middleweight and veteran of Season Seven of The Ultimate Fighter jumped at the chance to fight at UFC 118 in Boston, stepping up for the injured Jorge Rivera against Alessio Sakara. Harris’ star rose dramatically following UFC 116, when his third-round slam knocked out David Branch, earned KO of the Night honors, and made the Top 10 highlights on ESPN’s SportsCenter. In the aftermath of his third win of the year, Harris expressed an interest in fighting three more times in 2010, and stepping in for Rivera was a solid step.
However, as soon as the opportunity materialized, it began to fade away. First, Sakara bowed out on August 5, due to an unknown injury. Word circulated that Joe Vedepo would replace Sakara on the card, but scheduling conflicts eliminated him as well, and it was announced last week that 10 fights will comprise the card on Saturday at TD Garden, leaving Harris off the card for now.
Harris took time last week to talk to UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report about the situation.
Just for starters, when did you find out that Vedepo was out?
I think a couple of days ago, but when I fought John Salter, they found him the week of the fight. If they find someone, they can put me on at any time. If somebody doesn’t make weight, I’m going to be there. I’m still going to weigh in. I’m still going to be ready. I’m still coming. You never know. Crazy things have happened, and if they do, I’m ready.
Which fight featuring a TUF alum are you most looking forward to at UFC 118?
Maybe they can call Chris Leben!
Man, they need to give that guy a break [laughs]. But I’ve looked at the cards in the future, and there’s a lot of middleweights. There’s not a lot left that aren’t injured or can be prepared on such short notice.
That’s got to be tough, because the last time we talked you told me you wanted to fight six times this year. This was going to be four. Now, all these other cards, 119, 120, 121, everybody seems to be set until November.
Man, I never call anything set. People always have to pull out for certain reasons. Look at this card! There’s a lot of replacement fighters on this card. They shuffled Marquardt and Palhares to another card, so there’s always opportunity. I still expect to get at least five in this year. The October card’s still open, the December card’s still open… as long as there’s middleweights on the card, I still have a chance to fight, so I put myself on the waiting list. If anything happens, I’m in, hopefully. No guarantees.
So what’s the process like at this point? You’re still training, and you have no idea who you’re fighting or if you’re fighting.
In my mind, I’m still fighting. It reminds me of the old days on the small shows, when opponents would pull out at the last minute, or I end up not fighting. It doesn’t affect me at all. God forbid when I get there I don’t get to fight, but until that point, I’m going to keep training like I’ve got a fight, because I’m going to weigh in, and if somebody doesn’t make weight, I’ll fight whoever they’re supposed to fight.
So I guess that’s a warning to all the other middleweights on the card: make sure you make weight!
Actually, I hope they don’t make weight. It’s not a warning, man. I’m just being real. That’s how I’m thinking. It doesn’t get me down. And if I don’t fight, I’ll be a little disappointed because of training camp. Joe Silva understands that we train very hard. I like that he understands that we’re human. We’re not just machines.
But when you say it doesn’t matter who you’re fighting… When you train, how much is geared to a specific opponent? How much were you preparing specifically for Vedepo, or Sakara before him?
It’s common sense to train for a person’s strength. It’s kind of hard when you don’t have a lot of video—we didn’t have nothing on Vedepo except super-old videos—so he could have come in with flying knees and kicks and I would have had no idea. But his base is wrestling, so we got some good wrestling in. But whoever I’m fighting, hopefully, we can get some kind of information and try to focus on that a little bit.
Does it throw you off to be training without knowing who your opponent is?
No man, you’ve got to understand. I did the local circuit for a while. I found out who I was going to fight, one time, four hours before the fight. That’s happened two or three times, when I found out who I was going to fight at the very, very, very, very last minute, so I’ve been through all that stress and worrying. Now, I don’t care. I’ve fought every kind of fighter you can think of: the brawler, the grappler, the wrestler. I’ve fought them all, so it doesn’t matter who shows up.
This is an interesting time for you, because you’re coming off the fight with Branch with the big slam, and getting on SportsCenter, and I remember hearing when Rivera was out. I said, “I’ll bet they call Gerald Harris.” You were really trying to strike while the iron’s hot.
Definitely. I was trying to get on whenever. I wanted six fights this year. It would have been great, but I’m not disappointed. I’m blessed. I got three in. A lot of veterans come up to me, and they’re like, “Dude, you already fought three times!” It’s been crazy. I’m just so happy right now, I can’t explain it.
Well, if it winds up so that you’re in Boston, and just there for the Fan Expo and to watch, what are you looking forward to seeing most at 118?
Couture and James Toney, 100 percent. I’m definitely looking forward to that fight.
Now, are you looking forward to it because you think it’s going to be a good fight, or are you looking forward to it because you want to see what Dana and a lot of other people have suggested is going to happen: Randy takes him down quick, and chokes him out or pounds him out on the ground?
Everything you just said. [laughs] I just got caught up in the hype. I think it’s interesting. I mean, if an Olympic [wrestling] champion came to the UFC, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but with the controversy between boxing and MMA, this is perfect. A lot of boxing fans are going to tune in, and a lot of MMA fans are going to tune in, obviously. But no matter what anybody says, I’m so glad they advertised it as MMA vs. boxing, because it is. You can’t sugarcoat it. It’s going to be great. But I do want to see Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn, because I wrestled in college near Frankie Edgar. He’s a really cool guy.
But when they told me I was on 118, I had no idea who was on the card. I was training, and not so long ago I saw, “Oh, I’m on the same card as BJ Penn.” There’s so many cards, man, I lose track.
It would have worked out for you to be on the two big cards of the summer, between 116 with Brock and everything that was going on there, and this one with BJ and Frankie and Couture and Toney…
I’ve already made it known that I’ll try to piggyback off of any Brock Lesnar card. Look what happened last time! It’d be a blessing to get on another Brock Lesnar card. And no disrespect to anybody else on the card, but everybody knows that’s his card. Once you say his name, it’s big time. One day, I’ll have that power, where people want to fight on the card with me. Right now, I don’t, so I’m trying to work that out. I’m like the guy who opens up for the big name singer, you know?
And last time, you had a song that blew everybody away.
Exactly! I hope to piggyback off of them and try to showcase my talent. Last time, I can’t complain, but it worked out perfect.