Gerald Harris was on the seventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter," but he is finally making his Octagon debut at Ultimate Fight Night 20. The road between his time on the show and Monday's fight with Mike Massenzio was long and fraught with obstacles.
"I had to vacate the 'Bum Fighting Championship' title. I'm off the local circuit. I've got the gold grocery cart with the rims on it. I'll have to pass the throne on," Harris told Cagewriter. "It's great to be signed with a large organization. No disrespect to the small organizations, but it's real hard. It's really inconsistent, and I had no determined future. Now I have something that's steady, something I can rely on."
Harris has fought in the rain, in smoke-filled bars and against opponents who were wearing weightlifting gloves. Once, he showed up for weigh-ins, but the promoters didn't bring a scale. Harris quickly went to Wal-Mart to pick up a scale.
"I fought in one arena where there was so much smoke, when they took a picture of me fighting, there was a ring of smoke round my neck," Harris said. "But I appreciate it all because I've grown from it."
But through all those obstacles, Harris has stayed focused on his fights. Though he lost to eventual champion Amir Sadollah on TUF, his last recorded loss was to Benji Radach in August of 2007, when Harris was a part of the International Fight League. His record wasn't getting him noticed, unfortunately. It was a call to Dana White that got the ball rolling for Harris to join the UFC.
"I had run into Joe Silva and Dana White numerous times since the show, but we never spoke about me getting back in. To me, that's kind of annoying, to say, 'Hey, I'm ready, I've been winning.' It's kind of cliche to run into those guys and say that, because that's all they hear. I think my big break came when Dana was on MMA Junkie radio. I called in and played a prank on him, and he was laughing pretty hard. He said, 'I need to get you back in the UFC.' Probably a week later, I was signed."
A win to start 2010 would help Harris forget about the rough times behind him. 2009 was not the easiest year for him.
"Financially, it's hard to fight on the local circuit. I lost a big sponsor, and I lost my brother in March. The only thing that's really kept me going is my trainer. He's like my family. Even when I lost my brother, he kept my head above the water. He keeps me focused on fighting."
Though Harris is dedicating his performance to his brother, he's focused on his training. Harris' home gym is Goldstar in Tulsa, but he's also joined up with the Greg Jackson family and the Grudge Training Center in Colorado. After recently training with Nate Marquardt, Harris was impressed with the caliber of fighting.
"You actually see a whole different level of fighters. When you watch it on TV, you think, 'Aww, I can do that.' You know how guys will watch NBA players and say, 'Oh, how did he miss that free throw?' It's that mentality. I went to Rampage's camp, Michael Bisping's camp, Nate Marquardt's. I like to see what guys go through to get to that level. It's not just talent. It's a lot of hard work."
Harris is hoping to bring all that he learned into the cage on Monday night against Massenzio.
"I've heard nothing but good things about the guy. He's going to come back better than he was. We're not going in there banking on his disadvantages. We're going in there focused on our game plan and what our advantages can be."
But Harris gives no hint as to what those advantages are.
"I can't tell you. It's a secret."