For someone who swore just a couple months ago he was done with mixed martial arts forever, Gerald Harris sure seems in a rush to get into some fights.
The welterweight from Tulsa nicknamed “Hurricane” announced his retirement last October after winning his fourth consecutive bout. But not only did Harris recently come out of retirement on just a few days’ notice in April to fight Rafael Lovato Jr. at Bellator 198, he now returns to action Friday night at Bellator 202 in Thackerville, Okla., where he’ll meet Yaroslav Amosov.
And after that? Harris wants to get right back into the thick of things.
The 38-year old seeks to be a part of the upcoming Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix tournament, and he wants to make sure his bosses know it.
“This is what I want (Bellator president) Scott Coker to know,” Harris told MMA Fighting. “Some of those young bucks they’ve got coming up, they’re young, they’ve got talent, I admit it. But they’ve got time to grow, and I ain’t got that time right now. This is the sort of opportunity to do something big I’ve wanted and I want to be a part of it.”
Late last year, it didn’t seem as if any such opportunities were ever going to come his way. Harris found himself in the sort of fighting no-man’s land many accomplished fighters before him have experienced: He has a name, he has experience, and he even has a viral highlight reel to his credit — an all-timer of a knockout slam against David Branch at UFC 116.
But when you’re cut from the UFC, as Harris was after his first Octagon loss back in late 2010, other national promotions can be leery of signing you, for fear of appearing to be aligned with a fighter branded, fairly or not, as a “UFC washout.”
And the smaller promotions, who are happy to have a national name on their cards, can be a depressing situation for someone who just got used to competing on the biggest events. Which was why Harris decided to call it quits last fall after winning a fight in his hometown.
“It was terrible, man,” Harris said. “It was the worst. When you’re on the big shows, on national TV, and the way the promotions handle their business on fight night and leading up to it is professional and first-class, it’s real hard going back to the places you were fighting in on your way up. My last fight, not only did I have to sell tickets like they make young fighters do, but it’s in my hometown, and 6 o’clock on the night of the fight I’ve got people texting me asking me about tickets. I don’t have the time or energy for that.”
So without seeming to have a path back to the big leagues, Harris called it quits, despite being on a stretch in which he had won eight of his previous nine bouts.
Then Bellator came calling.
“I’ve been so impressed with the way they do things,” Harris said. “Everyone who’s said good things about Scott Coker going all the way back to Strikeforce, they’re right. The fight with Lovato didn’t go the way I wanted it, but the way it came together, I asked for some things they didn’t have to give me, and they said ‘no problem.’ After that it was easy to come to a deal and go to work for them.”
Harris enters Bellator 202 in what’s become a familiar position: As the veteran whose opponent wants to make a name at his expense. Amosov, a 24-year-old Ukrainian, brings a 19-0 record into his Bellator debut, with eight knockouts and nine submissions to his credit.
“People will come up to you and say, ‘Hey, he’s undefeated, but who’s he beat, he’s beat a bunch of nobodies,’” Harris said. “But you can’t look at it like that. You still have to study up on your film and take him seriously, because guess what? If he’s got a big left hand, it doesn’t matter who he’s been knocking out, I gotta make sure I don’t walk right into that big left hand. So I’m going to take this fight seriously. I’m planning on getting the job done and then I want to hear my name included when they announce the fighters to participate in that welterweight tournament.”