Gerald Harris is back in the big time. One of the favorites during the Ultimate Fighter’s seventh season, Harris was upset by a then unknown named Amir Sadollah. Harris wasn’t invited to continue his career in the UFC and has bounced around the sport’s fringes for two years, winning seven in a row. He talked to Heavy.com’s Brett Jones about how he got his invite back to the big show and why being cut was the best thing that could have happened.
Heavy.com: I want to start with the way that most UFC fans got to know you, and that was on The Ultimate Fighter. Tell me a little about your experience on the show.
Gerald Harris: Oh man. I could easily complain about the no contact issue. I mean, the disadvantage of the show was no phone. You know the story, no internet, no contact with the outside world. You know, the key word in that is sacrifice. You’ve got to sacrifice something if you want something. I had no problem with it. It sucked, it was hard, but the whole time I’m thinking “dude, look where I’m at, look at the opportunity I have.” I came up a little short, but actually, losing on the show was the best thing that ever happened to me with my career, because that allowed me to get back on the local circuit and fine tune myself, you know, to be the fighter that I am today.
Heavy.com: You lost to the guy who went on to win the whole show, Amir Sadollah, who is also fighting on Monday’s card. Is he a fighter that you’ve followed more closely since The Ultimate Fighter?
Gerald Harris: Nah, I follow all of the guys on the show, especially Matt Brown. He’s one of my favorites. I just track their progress as in, not to compare myself [but] I just want to be like “aw, you know, he’s gotten better here, he’s gotten better at this.” It’s good to see someone that you assume or compare yourself to be on the same level doing successful things, so I know if I was in there with Amir and I was getting a good fight in, he’s successful in the UFC, and I’m hoping [for] the same for myself. And that was two years ago, so that was a long time ago. A lot of improvements have been made since then.
Heavy.com: Speaking of that, obviously he’s moved down to Welterweight and you’re still fighting at Middleweight, but if the opportunity arose, would Amir Sadollah be an opponent you’d like to face to avenge that loss?
Gerald Harris: Nah, I couldn’t care less about that fight. It already happened. I had my chance. I think rematches are deserved whenever there’s a controversial loss, a split decision, something like that, but to get TKO’d, you might as well just call it a day, you know what I mean? There’s no lucky punches in this sport, man. I don’t have no urge for that. You know what? Two years ago, you ask me that question and I’d have been like “hell yeah, let’s fight now,” but I’m totally different. He did me a favor. I’m not envying him at all.
Heavy.com: After that show, fighters typically receive at least one fight with the UFC on the season finale. Do you feel you were treated unfairly in any way by not receiving a fight on the finale of your season of The Ultimate Fighter?
Gerald Harris: It sucked bad. At the time it hurt. Financially I was doing bad. I couldn’t do anything from January to July or June, whatever it was. I had to move in with my mom. I mean, it was a rough time, but like I said, all of that benefited me because if would have gotten on the finale, I probably would have squeezed out a victory over somebody and been in the UFC, and I’m telling you right now, I wouldn’t have been successful in the UFC two years ago with the skills I had. I could have gotten by a little bit, but you know, I don’t just want to be in the UFC, you know what I mean? There’s 200 some guys in the UFC. I want to be here for a purpose. So, I think back then, I would have just been another guy in the UFC.
Heavy.com: Explain how getting cut by the UFC was the best thing for you.
Gerald Harris: You know, on the smaller shows, you run into everything. I’ve run into the good and the bad, mostly the bad. I mean, organization unstableness and money but opponent wise, I’ve fought every type of person you can think of: straight jiu jitsu guys, straight stand up guys, I mean, it gave me a great opportunity to go out there and mix it up a lot more. I could fight six or seven times in a year and a half. In the UFC, you fight maybe three times a year and every guy you fight is going to be top competition, so the local circuit allows you to get some experience and the competition is always going to be tough, but you know what I mean, it’s like playing football in the backyard with your friends or playing in the NFL, you know what I mean? It’s a whole other level when you get up there. I’ve had only one fight out of the six fights I’ve had outside of the UFC, I’ve only had one fight where my original opponent was the person I fought. It’s been switched up every fight, even the day before the fight, so whenever they called me two days ago and said “[Mike] Massenzio’s out,” I’m like “alright, whatever, who’s next?”
Heavy.com: That doesn’t affect you at all, having your opponent change at the last minute?
Gerald Harris: Man, they could have changed my opponent before I walked in the cage. [UFC match maker Joe Silva] was surprised by my reaction. I was just praying that they didn’t cut my fight. I would have been hurt then. He’s like “oh, I have bad news, Massenzio’s out,” and I’m like, “ok, who am I fighting?” It’s not a big deal, seriously.
Heavy.com: What do you know about John Salter, the guy you’ll now be fighting?
Harris: He’s tough as hell. He’s a wrestler, so we have that wrestling fraternity of just being hard headed. We’ll take any challenge, you know? I know some things about him. He’s definitely a good guy ’cause he’s a national champion, and you can never look down on that. But he’s like me. Not a lot of people have seen what I’ve done in the past two years, and there’s not a lot of video on him, so we’re in the same boat.
Heavy.com: One of the guys you fought outside of the UFC was former WEC and UFC fighter Nissen Osterneck. Did that really help you get to the level where you could get back into the UFC?
Gerald Harris: I got to a point where I told my manager I’m only fighting people that have been cut from the UFC or from a major organization, so I’d fight anybody from Strikforce guys to Japan. I just got tired of the local guys. They’re tough, but it’s good to get these names on my record. I would like to have gone to Japan and fought that guy, what’s his name? He was the WEC champion for a while.
Heavy.com: Paulo Filho?
Gerald Harris: Yeah, yeah. Then we were about to fight Travis Lutter, but Travis Lutter got injured. Those are the kind of fights that I needed, and when I fought Osterneck, my trainer never said, “beat him and you get in the UFC.” That wasn’t my ticket into the UFC, you know what I’m saying? It looked good, it showed that I can compete at that level.
Heavy.com: So it was a matter of improving your profile by fighting better guys?
Gerald Harris: Yeah. Your record, it can look good and people click on your record and go “oh man, he hasn’t fought anyone with a winning record.” That doesn’t make you look bad ’cause you could be a bad dude. You could be a tough fighter but you just haven’t faced tough competition. So, you know, Osterneck was a game guy to fight. He had never been knocked out, so [knocking him out] was good.
Heavy.com: There’s a story going around about how exactly you got back into the UFC.
Gerald Harris: It’s true.
Heavy.com: So Dana White was on the radio and you happened to hear him and you decided to call in and plead your case, is that what happened?
Gerald Harris: Nah, I prank called him. It was MMA Junkie. All I did was this, and me and my manager talked about it before I did it. I said “I’m not gonna call this guy and beg to get in the UFC, ’cause I’m gonna sound lame.” Actually, I consider Dana to be a friend. He’s a real nice guy. When I see him, it’s like, “hey, how’re you doing? How’s the family,” you know? He’s a cool guy, and it’s good to have a two-minute conversation not about fighting. So when I called in as a joke, I put on a British accent and I started saying, “hey, I’m calling from Liverpool, I’m a real big fan of this guy,” and I’m talking about myself. I was like, “you know Gerald Harris?” And [Dana’s] like, “yeah man, I like that guy!” And I’m like, “yeah, you should have him in the UFC.” Then he was like, “yeah, we’re gonna get him in the UFC.” And I’m like, “man, Dana, it’s Gerald!” And he just busted out laughing. And after that, the conversation was more of, ” yeah man, thanks for coming to Oklahoma City,” because he came to my home town, and he was like, “yeah, Oklahoma City was good,” and he just jumped back on and said, “I heard you’ve been winning,” and he was like, “I’m gonna get you back in the UFC.” Then, a week later, I was back in the UFC.
Heavy.com: Now, did you sign with the UFC before Tim Credur dropped out of this fight, or was it after he dropped out?
Gerald Harris: Tim Credur got injured, and it was one of those Joe Silva moments where he was like, man, who can I get to fill in for this fight? Hopefully Dana was like, “yo, that Gerald Harris dude,” you know what I’m saying? It was all just coincidence. That’s why I got signed, ’cause Credur got injured.
Heavy.com: Let’s talk about your training for this fight. How has it been switching to training with Nate Marquardt up at the Grudge Training Center?
Gerald Harris: Yeah, I’m actually going to join Grudge and Greg Jackson. It’s actually all one gym. I’m tired of bouncing around. Back home, I have great training, and it’s consistent training where I can train for a fight. I’ve trained for the fights in the past, but it’s different than when you go to a training camp. I don’t want to live in Colorado or New Mexico. I want to keep my training back home and when I have a fight, I can go for four or five weeks or whatever I gotta do. You know how boxers used to do back in the day. They stay home, they’d train, stay tuned up, and when they got a fight, they’d go to camp.
Heavy.com: And back home for you is Tulsa, Oklahoma?
Gerald Harris: Yeah. Tulsa, Oklahoma is my home town.
Heavy.com: And you grew up there, you went to high school there, and you wrestled there, but you were also the mascot for your high school, is that right?
Gerald Harris: Yeah, I was a mascot. I haven’t had a fist fight since the sixth grade, but my first day as a mascot I suplexed the other mascot. That’s when I got popular. He grabbed me and I friggin’ ducked under and suplexed him on his head.
Heavy.com: So your school’s mascot was the “Fighting Cardinal,” and I have to ask, was it called the Fighting Cardinal before that or was it just the “Cardinal” until then?
Gerald Harris: It was the Fighting Cardinal, I just straight up filled out the stereotype when I got in that fight. The guy was like, “man, I didn’t think you were that strong!” And I was like, “well, you shouldn’t have grabbed me.”
Heavy.com: You’re training with Nate Marquardt now, and that’s going well for you. Previously you trained with Team Quest. Of course, Nate Marquardt is getting ready to fight Chael Sonnen from Team Quest. Have you been giving Nate the inside scoop on Chael Sonnen?
Gerald Harris: My whole thing with training with Nate is, I’m going there for the cardio and to get my own training in. When I’m working with Nate, and me being a southpaw wrestler, yeah, that’s fine. I spoke with Nate. I’m not a guy that bounces around from team to team and tells on people. I’m not gonna go to another gym and say, “this is what Nate Marquardt does,” you know what I mean? That’s not cool. Look, if I have to fight Ed Herman, do you think Chael’s gonna help Ed? Hell yeah! It’s not personal. I could call Chael and talk to him right now. He doesn’t give a damn because nothing I do is gonna benefit what goes on in that camp. Me being a southpaw wrestler helped [Nate] out in that experience, but I’m gonna be with Grudge and Greg Jackson. I’ve been other places, and I can’t teach someone to fight Michael Bisping or guys that I’m real close with. You just don’t do that. That’s like a hidden rule. You know how hidden rules are. You don’t do that. You train with someone that’s your boy, you’ve got some sort of friendship, you don’t tell what that guy does in training.
Heavy.com: What’s your prediction for Marquardt v. Sonnen?
Gerald Harris: I’m shooting for Nate, you know? I think Nate is a favorite, but you can never count Chael out ever. He’s one of those guys that’s hard to look good against.
Heavy.com: I think a lot of people thought Sonnen had no chance against Okami, and then basically he shut Okami down.
Gerald Harris: He beat the shit out of Dan Miller, and Miller’s a bad dude. You know, he just does that to people.
Heavy.com: Speaking of your respect for people you’ve trained with and the unwritten rules about not undermining your former training partners, you’re now with Greg Jackson, whose fighters are well known for not fighting each other under any circumstance.
Gerald Harris: Yeah, we already established that rule.
Heavy.com: So, regardless of the circumstance, you’d never fight anyone you train with, even if it were a championship match?
Gerald Harris: I’m not interested in trying to fight one of my training partners. You know, it’s kind of like Koscheck/Swick. How do you celebrate beating up your damn teammate? I won’t ever fight Nate Marquardt. I probably won’t ever be in a position to fight Nate Marquardt. Whenever I get my title shot, he could be the champ already or retired, you know what I’m saying? There’s no point. The good thing about Greg Jackson, as far as I know and I may be wrong, is that Nate is pretty much the only Middleweight in the UFC right now, I think. I know they’ve got Joey Villasenor. We’ve got the same manager, but he’s in Strikeforce, I believe. So, there’s a not a lot of competition [amongst Jackson teammates]. But, to train with the number two Middleweight in the world, that’s a blessing, so I’ll take advantage of that as much as I can.
Heavy.com: Let’s talk about a couple of your other friends in MMA. You’re friends with both Rashad Evans having that Greg Jackson alliance. You’re also friends with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. There’s some bad blood between the two these days as they build up to their fight. Has that affected your relationship with them in any way?
Gerald Harris: I talked to both of them, and I told Rampage, “I might head out to the gym and train with Rashad,” and he’s like, “oh, that’s cool.” He don’t care ’cause he knows I’m not gonna go out there and say, “hey, this is what Rampage does.” I told Rashad, I said, “hey Rashad, when you fight Rampage, I’m probably gonna most likely be in his camp.” And he’s like, “oh, that’s fine man. Do what you got to do.” It’s a business, and me and Rashad are good friends, you know? I’m seriously not gonna watch that fight. That’ll be one fight I can’t watch. But I’ve known both of those guys for a pretty good time. I’ve known Rashad for years and me and Rampage got close real quick during the show having so much in common. I really can’t watch that fight, you know? But I gotta do what I gotta do, business-wise. I will go over to Rampage’s camp and I’ll train and do what I gotta do, but that’s a business thing, that’s nothing personal against those guys.
Heavy.com: Your prediction for that fight?
Gerald Harris: The black guy’s gonna win.
Heavy.com: Oh, the black guy. Way to narrow it down!
Gerald Harris: That’s a good way to come out, huh?
Heavy.com: Now another guy, another black guy, in fact, that you’re friends with is King Mo, Muhammad Lawal. He recently called Rampage a “stereotype.” Do you agree with that? I mean, you’re friends with Rampage.
Gerald Harris: No comment. No comment at all. Those guys, let me tell you what it is. It’s like having two pit bulls in the same room. Both of them are like, “I’m the baddest one in this room,” and that’s how they’re gonna bump heads. If they weren’t at the same weight class, I don’t think they’d bump heads. Those are two of the baddest dudes in the world. They gotta bump heads. They’re not gonna say, “You’re better than me, I’m better than you. You’ve got good boxing, no, you’ve got good wrestling.” No, they’re gonna bounce off each other, man.
Heavy.com: You mentioned earlier that it was a struggle fighting locally and fighting outside of the UFC to make ends meet sometimes.
Gerald Harris: God, man, I’ve been through so much.
Heavy.com: Like what?
Gerald Harris: Financially, I had to live with my mother for a couple months. I mean, financially, I’ve done bad since [The Ultimate Fighter]. It’s ridiculous. I’m not gonna go into what I get paid, but it’s not a lot. I’ve fought six times in two years, so you can do the math on that. That’s three times a year. I had an injury one time that had me out for about four months. Financially, it’s been super tough. I mean, it’s been so tough that I couldn’t even buy my son shoes, you know what I mean. I worked. I was bouncing at a bar, I did everything I could. When I was in Portland, I was the maintenance man in my apartment. I was actually cleaning somebody’s bathroom after I redid the ceiling and my IFL fight was on the TV at the same time, and they come running in like, “you’re on TV! You’re on TV!” So, I was a janitor, pretty much, in my apartment. I did what I got to do, man.
Heavy.com: Which one of your IFL fights was on, was it the Fabio Leopoldo fight or the Benji Radach fight?
Gerald Harris: It was the Leopoldo one, yeah.
Heavy.com: At least that was the decision. They didn’t get to see you get knocked out, right?
Gerald Harris: Yeah, I don’t want to see that Benji Radach one. They can keep that one! You know, it wasn’t that bad. I watched it, and I was dazed, I was pretty done, but it wasn’t like a highlight film beat down. I don’t want to be one a commercial, and you can’t even put that on a commercial.
Heavy.com: One of the other jobs you had was performing your stand up comedy routine.
Gerald Harris: Oh yeah, stand up was fun.
Heavy.com: Is that something you’re going to continue doing now that you’re with the UFC, or is on the back burner?
Gerald Harris: I’m not doing any kind of acting or comedy until I’m done fighting. I want something to look toward when I’m done fighting. I had an interview a few days ago and I said, “look, when I’m done fighting, I’m gonna get into acting.” That’s my goal. I’m gonna put my all into acting like I did fighting. Right now, I’m 24/7 a fighter. That’s how I’m gonna keep it because if I start getting into other stuff, it’s gonna detract my flow. Now, Rampage is in a different situation. He’s been fighting for a long time, I think over ten years. He’s been in the game so long that he’s financially stable. I need to work my up that and towards the end of my career, cause Rampage can retire right now and not miss a beat. I’m at the bottom of the mountain right now. He’s been to the top already. That’s pretty much where I stand. When I get to a point where I feel like I can’t train like I want to anymore, I can’t compete, I’m gonna retire and I’m gonna go into acting.
Heavy.com: Is there a specific age at which you think you’re going to hang it up, or are you just going to go until you can’t go anymore?
Gerald Harris: I’ll feel it. I’ll know. I’ll say “man, this ain’t for me,” you know? I don’t when it will happen. I know I’m gonna make the decision after a fight. I’m not gonna go into a fight saying, “this will be my last fight.” That’s the worst mentality to have. I’m just gonna do it after a fight. Win, lose, or draw, it’s gonna be like, “man, I’m just not feeling myself. Time to hang it up before I get hurt.”
Heavy.com: Who is your favorite actor?
Gerald Harris: Will Smith and Jamie Foxx.
Heavy.com: What’s your favorite movie?
Gerald Harris: My favorite movie is Life with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. That’s my movie.
Heavy.com: Are there any sponsors you’d like to thank?
Gerald Harris: Musclepharm, Affliction, and locally in my home town I have to give a shout out to Discount Sport Nutrition, they provide all my supplements. Brookside Piercing & Tattoo. I’ve never in my life been able to afford tattoos and they take care of me, so I didn’t get a tattoo because I was a fighter, I got one because they take care of me, pretty much. Alpha Electronics, they’ve got digital cameras, camcorders, TVs, all kinds of stuff. I’ve got to definitely thank the Grudge Training Center for letting me come out there. That was definitely a good eye opener.
Heavy.com: Thank you so much for taking some time out for the interview and good luck with your fight on Monday.
Gerald Harris: Hey man, I appreciate you giving me the call.