POSTED ON JUNE 26, 2013:
Fighter shifts into unexpected gears
"You know the answer to the question," said Gerald Harris. "Don't beat around the bush. That's the elephant in the room."
Get the elephant some peanuts. It needs to stay but a few more minutes. Before rehashing major MMA news with factual information rather than guestimations, we are talking about the present.
Right now, as of this very moment, Gerald "Hurricane" Harris is a retired fighter. Could the right offer from the right promotion bring him back to the cage? Absolutely. Fighters un-retire all the time. However, that is not his goal at this moment. Right now, the focus is on Harris' post-fight career. His 33-year-old body is a little worn down from being an athlete since he was eight.
So far so good. His Hurricane Training Center, 2133 North Sheridan Road, opened to rave reviews. A better-than-expected turnout for his first ever talent show promised of bigger shows on the horizon. His inaugural free wrestling clinic for youth this summer was jammed packed.
This twister is laying the foundation for success.
"I told Allan Green when I was done fighting, I wanted to go into fitness," said Harris. For years, he trained at Ghost Dog Boxing with Peppe Johnson and Green, among others. Now, with his fight career winding down, he jumped at the opportunity to build his own gym and brand.
On May 1, the doors opened at his own facility. Some wonder why he did not get back into teaching. Why not use his degree? they asked.
"I am actually doing inventory as we speak, a word I probably couldn't spell ten years ago," said the self proclaimed fight-omedian. "I never thought I would be doing this."
His degree is coming in handy, just not in a traditional way. Instead of teaching kids inside a classroom, he is giving lessons on the mat.
Every Wednesday during the summer he opens the mats. He invites kids ages 3-and-up to join his youth wrestling team. A risky move for a startup gym? Offering anything for free takes guts, commitment and bravery.
"If it wasn't for wrestling," he said before trailing off for a moment. "I was never a bad kid, but wrestling kept me out of the environment that I grew up in. I grew up in Turley, Okla. when gang violence was at an all-time high."
His philosophy? Time spent at home, in school, or at his gym is time off the streets.[image-1]
"I can keep these kids busy and teach them discipline and hard work. That is what I do now," he said. "Everything you do in life is going to require hard work. For them to work hard and be rewarded for it, it teaches them a valuable lesson at a young age. I want to share that."
Personal fitness is his specialty. He excelled for years at getting people into better shape. He honed these skills from high school throughout his collegiate career.
The results were promising. He was doing something satisfying to him as well as making a few extra bucks for these personal sessions. Now he had taken this passion and applied it to his gym.
"I run boot camp fitness," he said. "Four classes a day, four days a week. People love it, because I run the classes."
This is the base of his business. This allows him to branch out. He now has the ability to hold free wrestling clinics. The next talent show is already in the works for September 7.
You can like his page on Facebook for more information. He also encourages you to send him and email at GDB918@gmail.com.
So how did we get here? If life were fair, Harris might still be fighting in the UFC. However, after his first and only loss in the organization, he was unceremoniously cut. No explanations were forthcoming.
People, myself included, always ask him what happened. He equates this question to someone inquiring why your girlfriend dumped you. He no longer lets the question upset him. It is an inescapable topic of conversation especially when he is watching a UFC fight card in public.
"We are human beings," he said. "We are fighters. You see us on TV and we look like these big tough guys and we are beating each other up."
He then focused on his personal UFC experience.
"I was a father when I was in the UFC. I was married. There were a lot of things that motivated me to win my fights. When I lost it was devastating. Anyone who plays sports will tell you losing is a mental and physical drain on yourself because it is disappointing," he said.
"To lose your job -- to wake up the next day and not know where your next dollar is going to come from is -- I was depressed," he said. "It wasn't just being cut from the UFC. It was the fact that something so valuable could be so easily taken away. You work so hard to get somewhere."
Some may call it crying over spilled milk. But here are facts: Harris was cut from the UFC after compiling a 3-1 record under their banner. He collected two knockouts, one of which was featured on SportsCenter Top Ten highlight reel.
He was not a boring fighter. He had one bad fight.
"I've seen guys who lost five fights in a row, guys who failed three or four drug tests -- I never got in trouble," he said. "I was a clean athlete. I never got arrested. They were trying to bail guys out of jail. You are going to bail a guy out of jail but you cut a guy that is living a straight life, doing everything right? It goes with the 'nice guys finish last' theme."
It forced him to seek new opportunities. He rediscovered his love of comedy. He routinely performs successful shows around town.
He went from making $100,000 a year in the fight game to maybe $3,000 per fight. Now he is in charge of his destiny and career, and no one can callously take it away from him on a whim.
His hard work through the years is paying off and as he repeated several times during our chat, he is his own boss.
Maybe good guys can finish on top.
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