Gerald Harris turns 40 in November, but he isn’t quite ready to hang the gloves up for good.
“Hurricane” began his professional career in 2006. Since then, he’s fought for the UFC, World Series of Fighting, Bellator, and a number of other promotions.
Harris sports a 25-8-1 professional record, but he’s still looking for his elusive first win under the Bellator banner. He’s 0-3-1 in his four appearances with the promotion.
Harris doesn’t think that his age means he can’t still be successful in MMA. In fact, he’s ready to set aside some of his other obligations in order to fully commit to the sport again.
Wearing many hats
“Hurricane” could be one of the busiest fighters in MMA. He’s a professional athlete, a gym owner, a coach, a stand-up comedian, a teacher and a father.
Being pulled in so many different directions on a daily basis took a toll on Harris. He can’t focus completely on training, while his opponents in Bellator, such as Anatoly Tokov most recently, are training day-in and day-out, solely focused on the fight.
“While I was teaching class, [Tokov] was sparring with Fedor,” Harris told The Body Lock.
That’s not to say Harris doesn’t love what he does. He wouldn’t have committed his time to so many different tasks if he didn’t. Still, some obligations hold more weight than others.
“I love comedy. That’s my true passion,” Harris said. “If I could do anything in the world, it would be comedy and coaching.”
Each of his endeavors are linked in some way. Harris once had to perform a set off-camera during his time on The Ultimate Fighter Season 7.
“Dana White made me do about a five minute stand-up — impromptu, no microphone — at a dinner in front of a bunch of rich people. I’m like, really, bro? I can’t even say the s**t I want to say,” Harris explained. “That was pretty embarrassing. I did okay, but it just wasn’t the time for comedy.”
Being a comedian doesn’t fit as well into his daily routine as well as some of his other obligations. Harris is able to train for fights in his gym, Hurricane Training Center, while simultaneously overseeing operations. He also finds himself in the same mindset at home as he is in the classroom.
“I have one of the most well-behaved classes on site, only because that’s how I am as a parent,” Harris said. “It has nothing to do with being a fighter, because I’m not a mean fighter. I’m just a no-nonsense type of guy when it comes to kids.”
Some of Harris’ students are also fans of his fighting, including his son.
“When I get back to work, it’s all business,” he said. “They talk about the fight, I’ll be like, ‘Nope. You know what we gotta do, we gotta talk about science.'”
Gerald Harris’ experience with Bellator
Harris went into his bout with Tokov knowing that something had to give. He couldn’t continue splitting his time in a variety of different fields. After he lost the fight via submission in the second round, Harris came to terms with the fact that that could’ve been his last fight.
“I thought I was done,” Harris said. “They’re not bringing me back.”
He went as far as announcing his retirement on Twitter.
I was very close to winning, but cane up short to a game opponent. Thanks for the support everyone. That was the last fight on my contract. I have no regrets or shame in my career. https://t.co/YYUviX12HL
— Gerald Harris (@GHurricane) March 23, 2019
Less than two months later, Harris changed his tune. He found out that his first fight in Bellator — a short-notice bout with the undefeated Rafael Lovato, Jr — didn’t count toward the four-fight deal he inked with the promotion. Once he realized he had one fight remaining, Harris recommitted himself to MMA.
One of the deciding factors in ultimately deciding against retirement was Bellator’s treatment of its fighters.
“It feels like your career is in your hands,” Harris said. “When you want to stop fighting, you stop fighting.”
Harris has no shortage of experience negotiating with different promotions. He was famously cut by the UFC following his first loss in the Octagon after previously racking up three-straight stoppage wins.
Out of all the stops he has made throughout his career, Bellator tops the list.
“I feel like as long as I go out there and they can tell I’m trying and I’m putting it on a show, I’ll keep my job,” Harris explained. “As much as I hate leaving and getting half my money, I’m not afraid to lose in Bellator. I just want to fight.”
Harris’ recent flirtation with retirement wasn’t his first. He fought twice for WSOF, losing to Josh Burkman before beating Jorge Santiago on the scorecards. Eight months later, on April 22, 2014 “Hurricane” announced on his Facebook page that he was hanging up his gloves.
Harris would return to competition on December 2, 2016. He faced Aaron Cobb at Legacy Fighting Championship 63 and won by his patented slam knockout.
Harris fought two more times in 2017. After winning the Xtreme Fight Night welterweight belt, he decided once again to retire from the sport.
“All of them were injuries, every single time,” Harris said. “A third broken hand, and then I tore my Achilles. That was the two retirements that I had.”
The Achilles injury changed the course of Harris’ career.
“I tore my Achilles tendon the day before flying out to [The Ultimate Fighter] 25,” he said. “I was supposed to be on that season.”
Season 25, titled The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption, had a cast entirely of fighters who competed on past seasons of the show. Harris lost to Season 7’s eventual winner Amir Sadollah, and his success outside of the promotion – as well as his early departure – made him a prime candidate for the season’s theme.
Harris too felt he would’ve been able to run through the competition and get back in the UFC. Instead, he was sidelined, forced to watch his castmate win it all.
Jesse Taylor, who was infamously removed from Season 7’s tournament after a drunken rampage prior to the finale, won Season 25. He has since been released by the UFC after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
What’s next for Gerald Harris
Now fully focused on his MMA career again, “Hurricane” needs a dance partner for the final fight on his Bellator contract.
He didn’t have to look too far to find one.
Former UFC middleweight Eric Spicely was quick to throw his name in the mix on Twitter.
Let’s fight. https://t.co/AoXeDLLgIa
— éS (@EricSpicely) May 8, 2019
“When he called me out, that motivated the f**k out of me,” Harris said. “I want to f**k Eric up.”
Though Spicely’s call-out was about as respectful as you can get in MMA, Harris says there’s still a part of him that takes it personally.
“It’s business, but it’s personal too. I don’t care what nobody says,” he said. “It’s personal because I’m going home with half of my money for my kids. You’ve got to take it personal … And when you call me out, you think you can beat me. That’s why you called me out. Something in your head goes, ‘I can beat him.'”
Harris and his management are working to get the fight scheduled for Bellator’s July 12 card in Thackerville, Oklahoma, roughly 3.5 hours away from Harris’ gym.
As for the future, “Hurricane” isn’t expecting to have any talks about future fight deals with Bellator until he proves he deserves to stay with the promotion. He plans to do so in his next fight by employing what he calls “The Bernard Hopkins Approach.”
“When Bernard Hopkins got a little older, he fought a little more exciting[ly],” Harris explained. “It’s not as safe, but at this point, I’m not afraid of like no permanent damage. I’m fine. I get hurt in there, but I’m not going to get injured.”
“I just really want people to want to see me fight, you know? And if it takes me getting knocked down, getting up and fighting again, then that’s cool.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.