Phil Harris will become a part of Irish MMA history when he fights on the UFC Fight Night 46 card in Dublin on July 19. However, the British flyweight had a rather unusual path to getting a bout on the promotion’s highly anticipated return to Irish shores.
On April 5, Harris was cut from the UFC after suffering two successive losses in the promotion, to John Lineker and Louis Gaudinot respectively. Later that day, Harris signed a five-fight deal with Cage Warriors and was set to fight Kurban Gadzhiev on April 18. Then, in a strange turn of events, it was announced that Harris’s next fight would be under the UFC banner against Neil Seery in Dublin.
He revealed to TalkingbrawlsMMA.com this week how his being cut, signing with Cage Warriors and then subsequently re-signing to the UFC unfolded.
“I had a fight lined up in Cage Warriors that fell through. My opponent got ill just the day before I was meant to be flying out to fight. So, I was a bit disappointed but I was pretty ready to fight. My fight camp had just finished so I was pretty annoyed by that. Then a few days later I get a phone call saying ‘Do you want to fight on the Dublin card back on the UFC?’ So, here I am again fighting back on the UFC.”
After his short-lived spell of promotion-hopping, Harris admitted that he’s glad to be back in the top tier of MMA.
I just want to fight. Whether it’s Cage Warriors or the UFC or any other organisation. I just love to fight but yeah, UFC is the place to be.
In his last trip to the Octagon, Harris was submitted in the first round courtesy of a Louis Gaudinot guillotine. Despite ultimately contributing to Harris’s initial cut from the promotion, the result was changed to a ‘No Contest’ after Gaudinot tested positive for a banned diuretic in a post-fight drug test. Harris confessed that he feels no bitterness towards Gaudinot.
“To be honest, I don’t think he did it intentionally. It wouldn’t have changed the result if I’m totally honest. So, I don’t feel bitter against him. It’s just one of those things that happen. I don’t think he was personally trying to go out of his way to cheat or anything. It’s just he’s taken a substance that’s on the banned list.”
Harris will be stepping into the lion’s den when he faces Neil Seery in front of the Dubliner’s home town on July 19. The Brit asserted that any hostility from the Irish crowd won’t affect him on the night.
“The last few fights, especially in England, everyone’s been cheering me on (where) I fought Americans and I fought Brazilians. So this time it will be slightly different fighting when I’m not the home town boy, but once you’re in the cage and that cage door shuts it, doesn’t matter.
If there’s no one in the arena or a 100,000 people in the arena cheering you or booing you, it doesn’t matter when that door shuts. A fight’s a fight.
Both Harris and Seery have become fan-favourites for their respective fighting styles. Harris observed that their penchant for exciting the crowd played a big part in the fight materialising.
A lot of people want to see this match. That’s why the UFC made it happen.
The pair fought once before at BAMMA 3 in 2010, with Harris taking home the unanimous decision victory on that occasion. However, Harris, commented that both his and Seery’s progression as mixed martial artists means that the rematch may not go down the exact same way as its predecessor.
“We have both evolved with the sport and that’s why we’re still in the sport. A lot of people who’ve been around as long as us don’t evolve quite so well and that’s why they don’t do quite well or they retire. Not just because of age but they don’t move with the times. I think that’s why me and Neil have both done well. We’ve both stayed in the sport such a long time because we can adapt and evolve accordingly.”
Seery looked like a vastly improved fighter in his UFC debut against Brad Pickett in London earlier this year. 2 Tap almost caused a massive shock after out-scoring the heavy favourite on the feet for the entirety of three rounds. While Pickett ended up winning via decision, Harris has taken notice of Seery’s improvements and adjusted his training camp accordingly.
“A lot of my training partners have been watching what Neil does and they’re trying to imitate his style as best they can. He presses forward. So a lot of my training partners have been doing that. (I’m doing the best I can during sparring. I’ve been sparring with top level boxers because Neil does throw a lot punches in his fights.”
Harris is wary of using a game plan against Seery. He explained how this has worked to his detriment in the past.
“I won’t be looking for too much in this fight. In a couple of my past fights I’ve been looking for something too much and I think whilst I’ve been looking for something I’ve been getting caught. So, I’m going into this more open minded and just go with the flow a bit.”
“I definitely have to start better. Whether it’s coming out fast or coming out more clever, whichever way you want to look at it. My last couple of fights have ended quickly. I need to address that and hopefully in this fight you’ll see a big difference.”
When pressed as to the possible reason behind his recent poor form as a fighter, Harris was willing to attribute it to a lack of control over his mental game. This is something he has been addressing heading into this fight.
“I think I was over thinking. I was thinking too much in the cage rather than just doing what I do naturally. I think that’s what was holding me back or slowing me down because I was thinking too much going into the fight. With this fight I’m just going to go in and do what I do every day in the gym and it will just pay off.”
Harris seemed confident that he has worked out all the kinks in his game and predicted that he will upset the Dublin crowd by defeating Seery in a dominant fashion.
I think I’ll stop him within the distance. That’s all I’ll say. I’ve got a feeling. Maybe a TKO in the second or third round.
Harris is staring down the barrel of a three-fight losing streak in the UFC, while Seery has yet to earn a point in the win column in the promotion. Billy admitted that both fighters have a lot riding on this fight in terms of their future in the promotion.
“I say every single fight’s a must win for me. If I went into fights thinking they’re not must wins, I’m in the wrong game. But, a must-win as in if I don’t win I’ll get cut? Yes, definitely. Same pretty much as Neil. We’re both in the same sort of category.”
To check out Phil Harris’s full interview check out TalkingbrawlsMMA.com podcast #58 here which features interviews with Harris, Zak Cummings and Tor Troeng.
‘UFC Fight Night Dublin: McGregor vs. Brandao’ takes place Saturday, July 19th from Dublin’s O2 Arena and is live on UFC Fight Pass and BT Sport from 18:00 and from 20:00 on 3E.
Image Credit: UFC.com / Zuffa LLC