Saturday, November 27, 2010

Random Rant: Gerald Harris, Shine Fights, and the UFC's Not-So-Fighter-Friendly Practices

Gerald Harris appeared to be making sure progress in the UFC's middleweight division. That is until one angry Brazilian, Maiquel Falcao, stepped in front of him. If it weren't for bad timekeeping in their UFC 123 match, what ended up being a three round dance off might have ended in the final seconds of the first round. Either way, the fact remains that Gerald Harris is currently unemployed. Zuffa executives sent him his walking papers earlier this week, to the surprise of many fans and fighters. I guess there's no room for bad days in the UFC now, even if a guy happens to hold a 3-1 record in the Octagon. But, we won't dwell on the past, and neither should Gerald Harris. The one and only real question that matters where it involves Harris is, "what will Harris' next move be?"

Gerald Harris has the resume to compete anywhere in the mixed martial arts world. He lead an accomplished wrestling career through high school and college. He's also earned titles in the Shark Fights and Freestyle Cagefighting promotions. The Grudge Training Center representative lead a 7-0 record up until loosing two in a row in the IFL. He later took a stab at The Ultimate Fighter that was stopped by eventual TUF 7 champion Amir Sadollah in the reality show's second round. Following his Ultimate Fighter run, Harris returned to the pro circuit to earn six consecutive wins, enough to convince the UFC to bring him on board. In the Octagon, Gerald Harris continued his win streak, defeating John Salter, Mario Miranda, and Dave Branch with a power bomb slam that earned "Fight of the Night" honors and a place in an ESPN highlight reel. Then came Gerald's bad day against Maiquel Falcao, which brings us to the present.

... And so, we return to the original question, "what will Harris' next move be?"

There's always Strikeforce -- Gerald Harris vs. Ronald "Jacare" Souza would make a great fight. Then, Japan is an option -- Dream's middleweight division is pretty much wide open, and a meeting with Jorge Santiago in WVR's Sengoku Raiden Championship would keep addicted fans like myself up until the early morning hours watching. Yet, we have not summed up Gerald's options in just three organizations. Harris' UFC ousting provides a huge opportunity for mainstream-hungry promotions who thrive on the headline "featuring UFC veteran so-and-so." Their opportunistic marketing provides an open door for fighters like Harris who need to keep active and put a few duckets in their pockets. Many "semi-pro" or "regional level" promotions would sell their mothers to add the slogan "featuring UFC veteran Gerald Harris" to their cards.

One of those promotions, Shine Fights has been busy making moves the past few months. While much of Shine's publicity has involved non-payment of fighters and event shutdowns by boxing promoters with white afros, the upstart promotion has somehow managed to stay afloat, signing recent UFC releases Efrain Escuerdo, the TUF 8 lightweight champion, and light heavyweight Mike Ciesnolevicz, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist Rolles Gracie. They've also reported contract negotiations with a cable network.

So, maybe there's still room on Shine Fight's ledger for Gerald Harris??? Who knows? But really, it doesn't even matter. The issue at hand is much bigger than just Gerald Harris. There are a few lessons that we can take from this long rant -- one, the UFC shouldn't get too carried away with its pick slip pad. Yeah, we understand that the UFC-WEC merger will force the UFC to make some undesirable cuts, but the UFC has to realize that their cuts are only making other organizations fatter. Now, that may not be saying much now, but when fighters begin to look at the UFC as a not-so-fighter-friendly promotion (many already consider it one) Dana White and the Fertitta brothers will begin to feel the ground shake beneath them. Two, smaller promotions will continue to use the marketability of "UFC veterans" to promote their shows, and rightfully so. It's an instant eye-catcher. However, when will promoters realize that they often use the phrase "UFC veteran" so frequently and so loosely that it takes attention away from their own name? At some point you have to promote your own name, not the UFC's. Promoters continually allow the fact that a fighter has fought in the UFC determine a fighter's credibility, which can be true in some cases. Essentially, the golden rule is fighters make the promotion, promotions don't make the fighter. Of course, there's always exceptions to every rule, and Gerald Harris is one prime example of the exception. I guess that's the UFC's loss.

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