Community Interview: Gerald Harris on the Slam Heard Around the World, Race and Two Moments That Brought Him to Tears

Photo via geraldhurricaneharris.com

Gerald Harris wrote his name in the MMA history books with one of the greatest slams fans of the sport have ever seen. Harris didn't just take Dave Branch down at UFC 116, he knocked him unconscious. Bloody Elbow caught up with Harris right after the wrestler saw replays of the fight for the first time, to ask him about fighting, life, and African Americans in a predominately white sport. This is the first in a series of "community interviews" where fans take the wheel to ask fighters whatever is on their mind. 

Jonathan Snowden: You've had three days to process it. So-the slam. How does it feel knowing you will be on highlight reels and YouTube videos set to Drowning Pool songs until the end of time?

Gerald Harris: I think it was an amazing moment that could have been spoiled by a couple of unneeded and unnecessary shots.

AniMal34: How much restraint did it take to not go for a hammerfist after the slam?

Gerald Harris: The slam was impressive, but I think people were more impressed with the fact that I didn't continue. This is seen as a brutal sport. I think what I did, and I'm not patting myself on the back, showed people that we aren't out there to hurt each other. Our intention is to win.

subo: Is the forearm under the chin the key to the slam KO?

Gerald Harris: We do that drill all the time in practice. Part of it is coming up and coming down with a hammerfist. 

Jonathan Snowden: So, you were looking for a knockout? Is that how you recognized right away he was out?

Gerald Harris:: But in order for me to land the hammerfist I have to look at the guy's face. So when I looked at his face, I had a knee jerk reaction to stop.  I was like 'He's out.' It kind of felt like I hit a game winning basketball shot from half court.

KrmtDfrog: Where does this slam rank as far as best MMA slams of all time? Hughes, Rampage, Shamrock…. Harris. Nice company to be in.

Gerald Harris: It's good to be on that list. All those guys are legends. Even the Randleman slam on Fedor. It's in that argument for best slam. We're two hungry guys trying to get in the game so it's hard to compare. But one day, when I'm the champion, I think it will be glorified more. Whenever I make it, you know what I mean? Right now it's great, but I'm still a guy nobody really knows about. I'm "that dude" who did the slam on ESPN.

Jonathan Snowden: When you look at the clips online, right behind you you can see UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and he's got this crazy look on his face. Have you seen that clip yet, because it's pretty great?

Gerald Harris: I finally saw it. Honestly dude, to me, anybody that does a good job wants to impress their boss. I'm going to assume I impressed him. Showed him what I was capable of doing. I was happy to see that he was happy.

JimJoe: I yelled "Gerald the Merciful!" and got a pretty good laugh in the room.

Gerald Harris: Ha. I'm still the Hurricane, but I have control.

SouthAlaBamaRampage: How big of a step up in competition are you ready for?

Gerald Harris: I don't believe it will be a step up in competition. I think it will be a step up in exposure. The guys I've been in with are elite fighters. They don't have the Octagon experience like some of the other guys, but they're just as tough. I'm just going to take whatever they give me. It could be another newcomer or someone that's been around the UFC. I don't care. I'm just going to show up and fight.

MSEMCEE: I’d really like to know about his stance. He kinda keeps his head low but stuck a little forward, with his left hand near his chest and the right kinda out forward. He tends to keep a lowered stance with his back arched rather than straight up. Is this because he wants to be able to shoot if needed?

Gerald Harris: It's a secret man. I can't give out my secrets. I fight different every fight. If I explain what I did and why, isn't it easier for the next guy to fight me? So, I'm going to keep it a secret (Laughs). People look at my stance like I'm crazy. It works for me. I don't recommend it for anybody else.

RearNakedChoker: How’s your right knee? It looks like it impacted just about as hard as Branch’s head.

Gerald Harris: He landed first so it didn't hurt my knee. I've been wrestling all my life. I've bounced off my knee about a million times. It didn't affect me at all. He landed first so it took a lot of weight off of me.

SSreporters: How prepared were you for Branch's submission game? Because on several occasions he was going for the triangle choke and you reacted swiftly.

Gerald Harris:  Yeah. I don't brag a lot about my skills. But I'm ready for everything.

Jonathan Snowden: You try to keep that game hidden though, like Chris Lytle?

Gerald Harris: People assume I'm still that same guy that was on The Ultimate Fighter Season 7. Obviously I'm not, but some people still haven't realized that yet.  I just let them keep thinking that. (Laughs). Tell them I'm still a white belt. Still a white belt in jiu jitsu.

panamaman: Did it piss you off that Branch was showboating in the first round?

Gerald Harris: I try to keep my composure. The only time I lost my composure, I don't know if y'all saw it: when I threw that right hand from hell and I punched the cage. (Laughs). That's when I was like, 'Damn, how did that happen?' That stuff doesn't bother me. I saw a video of him and I saw all that break dancing. I knew he didn't punch when he did that, so I was like 'Whatever.' He did it one time and I hit him right in his mouth. It kind of slowed him down from all that bouncing and stuff. He's a gamer dude. He's a tough guy who's going to do damage in the UFC.

DirtyML: Did you also think that Branch reminded you of Keenen Ivory Wayans?

Gerald Harris: Y'all crazy! You know what's funny? Branch looked like one of the drivers. I kept telling the driver 'Man, I'm gonna whoop your ass if I see you again.'  He looked just like the guy that picked me up from the airport. That's the only guy I can compare him to. He's going to be trouble for guys though.

Deo Wade: What is your dream fight?

Gerald Harris: For me? Anybody. I'm not being cocky. I'll take a newcomer, I'll take a veteran.  If I got to fight on the undercard for ten fights, I'll do that to earn my title shot. If I need a big fight on the main card for that, then I'm ready to do that. I'm not asking for anything. The only thing I ask for is for you to give me opportunities. Believe in me.

MostDiabolicalHater: Did you buy anything really awesome with your $75,000.00 KO of the night bonus?

Jonathan Snowden: I know you've got kids, so probably not much!

Gerald Harris: No comment. You trying to get me robbed up in here man?

Jonathan Snowden: Every cousin you have just called the house.

Gerald Harris: Exactly. (Laughs).  Trust me, my phone is blowing up. But, I'm not changing for nothing. I got kids.

Much more with Gerald Harris after the jump.

thisredengine: What’s it like to finally make it to the UFC after not being asked to fight on TUF 7’s finale? Did you ever doubt the UFC would give you an opportunity?

Gerald Harris: I can laugh now, because it happened two, three years ago.  When Joe Silva called me I was at Wal Mart. I was broke. I thought I was fighting in the Finale. I  was training. He called me, I was in the parking lot, and he was like "Yeah man, we're going to cut your contract.' I was like 'You mean after the Finale?'  And he was like "No man, you're not getting a Finale fight.' I started crying. I was in the car crying. Sniffling like an eight year old.

I go home, and my girl friend is on the couch, and I just looked at her. She knows when something is wrong. I was dripping tears and said 'I got cut.' I was so hurt. I thought I was ready for the UFC and I wasn't. Things are different now. I'm a totally different fighter. I fought on the bum fight circuit. Not because I was fighting bums, but because I was in bummy situations. (Laughs). I worked my way through the local circuit and I made it to where I am today.  I didn't choose that path, but I'm glad I took it.

Jonathan Snowden: I'm glad you got a second chance, because it was obvious even with the IFL that you had a lot of potential.

Gerald Harris: When I was fighting with the IFL, I was training at the local high school. I was teaching on Thursday, flew out there and weighed in on Friday, fought on Saturday, and I was back in the class on Monday.  I was not a full time mixed martial artist. I used to go to the MMA gym just to punch the bag every once in awhile.  I didn't throw punches in fights either. I just shot double legs every time they did something. It didn't matter what you did, I was going to shoot a double leg. (Laughs). You could have shot. I was going to stop your shot and shoot on you. (Laughs). That was plan A, B, and C.

Jonathan Snowden: Since 1993 when the sport got started, that strategy has taken some guys a long way.

Gerald Harris:  It can work until you run into a guy who can wrestle and box like Gray Maynard. Then you're in trouble, because you are about to get whooped. 

Mike Fagan: Tell us more about your standup comedy career. Especially the DIY aspect of it.

Gerald Harris: I did impersonations and real, real physical comedy. Tackling chairs, jumping in the crowd. I was just a crazy comedian. It worked for me. I would one day like to be an actor. Not while fighting, but after fighting. I want to bring that with me to the movies. Not like Jim Carrey exactly, but close. I just wowed crowds with some of the things I did. It helps with fighting too, because I don't like to do things that others do. I haven't been compared to anybody in MMA, except for Rampage-which is an honor. I haven't been compared to any other fighters, and I like that.

Jonathan Snowden: Joe Rogan goes around to all the cities the UFC visits and performs. You should ask Joe about opening for him.

Gerald Harris: I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. I take comedy seriously, and I don't even have the energy right now to write a good routine. I'm not focused enough to get on the stage. I'm 100 percent about fighting. If I'm onstage doing jokes, I could be doing push ups, pull ups or watching video. When I'm done, I'm going to do it all. But right now it's all fighting.

RedinRIC : I was curious as it seemed he only had 1 guy in his corner, whereas it seems most fighters have at least 2 guys in their corner between rounds.

Gerald Harris: That's all I need. I do what works for me. I don't need three guys yelling at me in the cage. Next thing I know, the time's up. I like one guy in front of me. Because when guys start yelling at you it's like "Do this, go right, do that' and then your hear 'nnnnnnn" and the bell just rang. Me and my trainer have a very special relationship. He know what works for me. He listens to me. I listen to him.  That's all I need.

Jonathan Snowden: Let's give him a shout out. Who is the man in your corner?

Gerald Harris: That's "Peppe" Johnson from Ghost Dog Boxing. He also trains Allan Green who is a friend of mine from middle school. He just came up short against Andre Ward, but he's boxing in the Super Six Tournament against Mikkel Kessler next.  He's my corner man. He has a great gym. A lot of people are trying to get in touch with him to train now. That's my dude.

MMA-UK: Who is the MMA fighter you look up to the most and why?

Gerald Harris: It's crazy, but Frankie Edgar. I knew Frankie Edgar in college. I talked to him after his first fight in the UFC and I said 'Man, you're a great fighter. You're going to be champion one day. Your cardio is great, your wrestling is great.' This was maybe two years ago.  To see what he's done to this day. He's one of my favorite fighters. Somebody I look up to even though he's younger than me.

Jonathan Snowden: There's a generation of young fighters coming up that everybody is going to be looking up to soon, don't you think?

Gerald Harris:  What's that kid's name? The one who fought Carlos Condit?

Jonathan Snowden: Rory MacDonald.

Gerald Harris: That's the guy who's going to be special by the time I retire. I'm 30 years old.  I've developed fast-I didn't start fighting until I was 26, right before my 27th birthday.  I'm a fast learner and I've been blessed.  But this new wave were in jiu jitsu classes when they were eight years old. It's amazing. I didn't have a jiu jitsu class until I was almost 28 years old. There's an eight year old that can armbar me right now. (Laughs). That's going to be the new wave. That's going to be the passing of the torch.

Black Lesnar: Do you still train at GRUDGE?

Gerald Harris: Yeah, I'm still training at Grudge.  Haven't been to Greg Jackson's yet. I trained in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I don't have a big camp. I have a very small gym, but it works for me.

Jonathan Snowden: What happened with the Lally brothers? Weren't you down there in Arizona for awhile?

Gerald Harris: That was always supposed to be a temporary situation. I asked for my release from Team Quest and I was poor, living with my mother. I asked the Lally brothers if I could train with them until I was back on my feet. I never joined Arizona Combat Sports, but they always treated me like family. I've got a place in my heart for the Lally brothers. They took care of me when I really, really needed it. I'm grateful. I try to send guys out there. They know what they are doing and I appreciate what they did for me. I was training and fighting and I didn't give them a penny out of my pocket. Because I didn't have one. The money I was making from my fights was barely getting me by. They trained me like I was one of their big money guys.

Black Lesnar: Are you still pissed off by the horrible decision loss to Fabio Leopaldo back in your IFL days?

Gerald Harris: I do think about it. Every morning when I get up and I don't want to run I think about that loss. I think about the Amir loss. If I would have pushed a little bit harder I would have won. I can't blame it on the judges, can't blame it on the ref. Can't blame it on nobody but myself.  I'm responsible for finishing a guy.

Jonathan Snowden: But Leopaldo was a bad decision right?

Gerald Harris: I honestly believe the decision was wrong. But it's my fault. I have to finish people and that's what I plan on doing. That's the only way you can guarantee a victory.

MidWayMonster54: Gerald, do you still talk to your TUF 7 coach Rampage Jackson? Do you still train with him?

Gerald Harris: I haven't talked to him in awhile because he's so busy. And I understand that 100 percent. But he finds ways to get in contact with me and we talk. He really cares. But someone that busy-you let them do their thing. I wish him the best. I haven't trained with him in a long time. I trained with him for the Forrest Griffin fight and I trained with him and Michael Bisping for the Leben fight. I haven't seen those guys since.

Jonathan Snowden: What do you think of Rampage's interactions with other African American fighters like Rashad or that crazy van ride with King Mo Lawal?

Gerald Harris: I'm glad I wasn't on that ride. King Mo is my boy and they don't like each other. Rashad and Rampage don't get along. So, I'm kind of stuck in the middle. So I avoid ever being around those people at the same time.  I'm so glad I wasn't there. I was in the area, but I wasn't in that van.

jakedd:  Why do you think the UFC or MMA in general is not getting much or major support from the African-American community?

Gerald Harris: I wouldn't say it's a white sport, but most sports do have their ethnic followings. If you look at MMA, there's mostly white men in the sport. There's not a lot of African Americans in the sport. And I think MMA in general can do a better job of marketing MMA fighters to the African American audience.  Rampage, Rashad, Jon Jones. I've seen Rampage on BET-that's the only way we're going to get the African American market.  I went to the Rampage and Rashad fight. Snoop Dogg was there. That's the type of following we need. We're going to need to expand. Into the Hispanic market with fighters like Cain Velasquez. It just goes on an on. Look at the UK with Michael Bisping. The UK went nuts after Bisping won the Ultimate Fighter.

Jonathan Snowden: And in the sports community too. We know Shaq is a big fan and you were saying Lebron James was going crazy for your slam on ESPN.

Gerald Harris: If we can get NBA guys watching, if we can get other successful African American athletes in other sports to follow us, then we'll take it to another level. That's what it's going to take. We need the mainstream guys from other sports to come follow us. That's when their people will say 'Hey, what's this new sport? If he likes it, I like it.' 

Jonathan Snowden: It was a good start with Snoop at UFC 114. And the crowd was crazy for it. A million people on PPV proves the myth that black fighters can't sell pay per views is dead.

Gerald Harris: It takes time, because there aren't a lot of blacks in the sport.  Look at golf.  Tiger Woods turned that around. I'm not a racist person, but the only reason I watched golf was because I saw a black guy playing.  I was like 'Wow.' Now I know a whole bunch of white golfers' names. You know what I'm saying? That's the reality of the situation. You have to be drawn in somehow. Like, I could care less about soccer-but when I saw the USA doing good I started watching. Now, I'm following these guys. I'm watching soccer games. I just needed something to draw me in.  Once you do that, you can have people hooked.

Jonathan Snowden: This one is getting pretty personal...

II SMASH II: Where did you get the motivation to fight the same day or just a few days after your brother (Corey Williams) died.

Gerald Harris: That's kind of funny, because when you said that my heart fell in my stomach because I knew what was coming. In college I learned how to face adversity. At a young age I had some rough times.  But there's nothing to prepare you for the loss of a relative. Brother, mother, sister. And to lose my brother, it was almost unreal. I honestly pretended like it didn't happen until after the fight. I didn't shed a tear until I knocked the guy out. It was a one punch knockout. I threw one punch and this guy was out cold.  I busted out crying in the middle of the cage like a baby. People were like 'What the heck is wrong with him?' I grabbed the mic and I said 'Hey guys, my brother died seven days ago. And we're going to have a funeral tomorrow.'

I had to let it out. Rampage told me not to fight. Rashad told me not to fight. I actually wanted to fight for him. He never got to see me fight, but that night I was going to fight for him.

Jonathan Snowden: Wow.

Gerald Harris: The crazy thing is, he died in Georgia and I live in Oklahoma. I couldn't go to the funeral so we had our own service out here. The whole week I was training for my fight, I was doing his funeral also. Setting up the church, getting the obituary made. I was doing all that the week of the fight. A lot of people don't know that. Then I fought and the funeral was the next day. 

Jonathan Snowden: That's a great tribute to your brother.

Gerald Harris: You see I point to my left arm. There's a poem on my arm dedicated to him, a dream catcher that I got after he passed away. It's for me so I can sleep, so I can rest good.

Jonathan Snowden: That's intense. I don't know how to bring this back to fighting.

Gerald Harris: (Laughs). We can go back to the slam!

Check out Gerald Harris online and follow him on Twitter. Make sure you tell him Bloody Elbow sent you.

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