When I spoke to Gerald Harris a mere handful of days before his scheduled fight on the World Series of Fighting 4 card this coming Saturday night, he was trudging through the lowest point of any fight camp: the weight cut. His mind was focused on just two things. The first was zapping the weight from his large welterweight frame to successfully tip the scales at 170 pounds on Friday. The other thing on his mind was his opponent, Jorge Santiago, an 11-year veteran of the sport with 36 fights to his credit.

Santiago is not an opponent that Harris would have picked for his next fight. It’s not because he is apprehensive about the outcome of their meeting or has a lack of respect for Santiago, but because Harris feels that any potential challenger is coming at him from the blindside. That’s why we often hear the continued saying that mixed martial artists must constantly work on every aspect of the sport to be equipped for whatever or, more appropriately, whomever may come knocking.

“He does everything. He does it all,” Harris explained of his opposition in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “He’s a jiu-jitsu guy, a stand-up guy; he’s one of those very few fighters that can do everything. You gotta be careful. It’s not like a guy like Jake Shields, where you’re mostly worried about getting tapped out, or [Jon] Fitch, where you’re gonna get grinded out. He’s a guy that does it all. So we just gotta prepare for everything.”

Harris (Andy Hemingway/Sherdog)

Harris has always seen Santiago as a respected colleague and has even spent time training with him. Their paths would intersect, but they were always set apart in different promotions and points in their careers.

“I’ve been seeing him fight for a long time,” Harris said while dragging a day’s worth of training equipment out of his car. “You never really see yourself fighting somebody, so it’s a little bit of a surprise, especially since I had trained down there in Florida with him and that was a pretty good experience. But it’s part of the game. Sometimes you have to fight people you’ve trained with. It wasn’t like a buddy-buddy thing; it was just kind of one big team workout. It’s okay to fight and be friends after.

“We were always at different places at different times. He was at Dream when I was in the UFC. I was kind of on the local circuit by the time he got into the UFC. Sometimes you look at the champ and pretty much all you focus on is the top-10 guys currently, and we’ve never been in the same place at the same time.”

The two are similar, though, in that they’ve always had success in whatever promotion they’ve landed in. However, when it came to their tenures inside the UFC’s Octagon, they’ve both exited in different ways while being unfulfilled. Santiago was only able to capture one win in six appearances, and “Hurricane” was unceremoniously bounced out of the promotion on the heels of losing a decision in an ugly fight that had been preceded by a solid run of three stoppage finishes.

That’s what makes a promotion like the WSOF a welcome addition to the uneven landscape of professional fighting. It can take reputable names to build a stronger deck for its fight cards.

“It’s always good to fight somebody with a name just for the fame’s sake,” Harris said of the quality of names that WSOF can offer. “It’s kind of a bonus to have somebody that people actually know, and you get more credit for the win. When you fight somebody that’s unknown and are really good, that’s just how MMA is. You’ve got to make a name off the next guy because we don’t really have a pee-wee program. It’s not like college football and basketball; we’ve got to make our name off other people.

“I’m still doing that, and I’ve been in the game a long time.”

Harris’ last fight was his WSOF debut against one of the promotion’s first success stories and a possible contender for a future inaugural title, Josh Burkman. While Harris didn’t win the fight, he hung in there with Burkman for the entire 15 minutes, which is much better than Burkman’s next two opponents, UFC vets Aaron Simpson and Jon Fitch, were able to do. Burkman finished Simpson and Fitch in the first round. Still, Harris isn’t going to take the bait that a fair showing against a surging fighter is anything more meaningful than what any other loss.

“Nah, that’s a moral victory,” he said. “I don’t run around saying I lost to the champ. I wish I won the fight. A lot of people see a guy that is doing good, and I don’t see it like that. I just wish I would have did better in the fight. I don’t really think about it that much. I think it helped me for my future fight.

“I mean, I’m proud of him. He’s been around for a long [time]. He deserves it, but I wish it was us. I’m not going to glorify his victories.”

In spite of Harris’ perceived, well, spite towards feeling like he’s come up short for his time spent in MMA, his name was spread around at a WSOF press event on Tuesday as a potential opponent for Jon Fitch, granted that Harris can gain a win on Saturday. It’s the kind of media attention and fight with a respected veteran that someone craving more respect should be thankful to have.

Harris (R) delivers a right hand (Andy Hemingway/Sherdog)

That’s not to say that Harris is thankless. Again, we’ve got to remember that Harris is steeped in the tiresome preparations that fighters follow leading up to fight night. A fighter’s gaze is so near-sighted during fight camp that looking ahead or behind themselves brings on ideas that would just serve as unnecessary distractions to the immediate importance at hand.

“All I’m thinking about is Santiago right now. If I had my mind on Fitch, it’d be stupid,” Harris explained. “Santiago’s too tough of an opponent, or any opponent, to look past or look forward to somebody else. I’m not even thinking about fighting somebody else. All I’m thinking about is what I have to do Saturday. Then, after that, yeah. But it’s not something you look forward to or you never look past who you got right in front of you. Or you may not get to the person behind them.”

If you caught Harris on any week outside of the days he’s gearing up for a fight, you’d find a man whose nerves aren’t whittled down to a fine point. The same goes for any fighter who has to deal with the less pleasant responsibilities of fight week—as if we’re supposed to understand how them duking it out to blood and bone with other dangerous individuals inside of a cage surrounded by screaming crowds is the easy part.

When he’s not fighting, Harris promotes and organizes large comedy shows to pay his bills in his in-between time, and has performed on stage himself. He also runs his own gym, the Hurricane Training Center in Tulsa, and the non-profit Young Pharaohs Foundation, an organization that helps young people get to and through college. He also makes time to crack jokes on Twitter as well as getting people together to play video games for cash. That’s the motivated jokester that fans have grown fond of over the years.

“I’m always working on the [other] avenues,” Harris said. “I stay busy, man. You can’t just live off fighting. A fighting career is kind of like an NBA or NFL career. On average, five or six years max and then after that you’ve just got to look toward the future.

“The comedy thing is bills; I put on huge shows. The competitive gaming is just fun—me and my son. He’s 13, so we play a lot.”

When a promotion-savvy fighter can extend enough professional courtesy to conduct various interviews in the least ideal time, even just days before a scheduled fight, and conduct themselves maturely enough to not be flipping over tables and telling the media what they really think about them, it’s a good interview.

Harris is an accomplished individual, but he still feels like there’s more for him to gain in the sport of MMA. It’s understandable then that he really doesn’t have much else to say or joke around about in the last few days leading up to his next fight, when that fight could have a potentially meaningful impact on his career depending on which way it could go.

He did, however, share a few words about his boss, World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo, who at age 42 will participate in his own fight on the same card. I asked him about Sefo’s fight, and a bit of Harris’ trademark humor shines through ever so briefly in his answer.

“That’s just a crazy question—like I’m going to say my boss is going to lose?” Harris said with a laugh. “Sefo is a warrior. He’s 42 years old. I wish him the best. It’s hard to watch fights when you can still physically do it. It’s hard to watch them, and I know the feeling of wanting to get back in there. I just hope he’s blessed and healthy in the fight. It’s going to be interesting to watch, [but] I’m not going to be fighting him.”

Follow Gerald on Twitter: @GHurricane

Top Photo: Gerald Harris (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.