“I want to be one of those people that people always want to watch." - Clay Harvison
There is nothing particularly normal about fighting in the UFC. It’s a highly competitive organization showcasing the best hybrid athletes battling in a combat sport that’s been saddled with an outlaw label by the mainstream media and, at the same time, people can’t get enough of it. It’s a loud, enthusiastic, raucous fanbase cheering on the best multi-talented fighters of a generation who come to challenge each other inside the eight-sided cage known simply as the Octagon. The fighters that succeed have no need for normal and can be comfortable amidst the chaos.
Insert Clay Harvison and his “Spirit Hood”.
At The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale weigh-ins in June, Harvison took to the scale donning a fashionable wolf Spirit Hood animal hat with an attached scarf and pockets, announcing his presence as a one man wolf pack in the UFC. The following night at the finale event, Harvison secured a decision victory in his Octagon debut over fellow TUF housemate Justin Edwards in a three round slobber knocker. This win capped off a year in which, “Heavy Metal” had won three fights in three completely different atmospheres, proving that he is one with the chaos.
“When you're fighting at the house you've got (UFC President) Dana White on your left shoulder and you've got (former UFC heavyweight champion) Brock Lesnar on your right,” explains Harvison. “You're fighting in a warehouse with 40 people watching. That's not crazy or weird, right? Honestly, it was way more packed and loud at Wild Bill's because it is 3,000 people in there going ape s**t and chanting my name at once. I wasn't the main event at the finale, so it was more calm and collected. So, if you can handle having the Spike TV logo under your feet then you're fine. I felt good going into the finale fight and I felt good going into the first fight in the house. I knew that's where I was supposed to be and I know that I am now where I'm supposed to be in life.”
The almost 31-year old native of Georgia has had an anything but normal year. In June 2010, he scored a first round knockout, elevating his professional record to 8-3, which was totally comprised of local MMA shows. From there, Harvison made it into the TUF house and onto Team Lesnar. He won his first fight in the house against Mick Bowman by decision, a bout which was made famous by Harvison continuing to fight with his pinky dislocated and the bone protruding through his skin. Lastly, Harvison’s successful debut win over Edwards at the finale on June 4th, 2011.
“I knew that the UFC was where I was going to end up,” affirms Harvison. “I never gave up on my dream and I never stopped training until I accomplished my dream and I've accomplished it. I've not completely accomplished it, but I'm headed in the right direction. Hard work pays off, period. I was glad I won. It was a war and it was a close fight. I thought I won the second and third and he won the first round. He's a game opponent and it was extremely fast paced. It was a good fight.”
As for the action inside the cage at the finale, the up and down and all around tussle went almost all to plan. “First round, I was pretty much going to let him gas out and that went accordingly,” says Harvison whose excellent conditioning was a huge factor in his first UFC victory. “I was going to try and finish him in the second or third. Unfortunately, he had a brick for a head and I couldn't knock him out. I was planning on winning in the later rounds, honestly.”
To prepare for the fight, he uprooted himself and went west to train with another fellow TUF housemate: Ramsey Nijem. “I wanted to work on my wrestling and Ramsey was the best wrestler in the house, so I was like ‘I'm going to go work with Ramsey.’” That meant joining The Pit Elevated gym in Orem, Utah. “I knew from the fights I had seen Justin in and from the tape that he likes to go in there and blow it all out in the first three or four minutes. I knew he liked to do a double blast and I train with ‘Stripper’ Ramsey, who was on his team on the show and I know his wrestling is not as clean as Ramsey's. There's also a bunch of good D1 wrestlers out here and they get after it.”
On September 17th on the Battle on the Bayou card, “Heavy Metal” enters the Octagon for the second time against Seth Baczynski. Harvison was originally scheduled to take on DaMarques Johnson, who withdrew due to injury and Baczynski has taken the fight on short notice. At 13-6, the “Polish Pistola” has won back-to-back fights in outside organizations since losing his UFC debut by decision to Brad Tavares, and he trains at Power MMA and Fitness in Gilbert, Arizona with UFC stars like Ryan Bader and CB Dollaway.
The change in opponent doesn’t affect Harvison, because he is confident in himself and his training to win these clashes. “When we train conditioning, we push it to the max because we plan on being in three round wars and we don't plan on catching people early,” asserts Harvison on the ethos of The Pit Elevated fight team, which includes Nijem, TUF winner Court McGee, TUF alum Josh Burkman, and head coach Jason Mertlich. “If it ends early, good, but if this goes into the later rounds, we're going to break you. That's what everybody's mentality is out here. We're going to out work your ass, period.”
The fight team’s name, The Pit Elevated, is a nod to and named after the world renowned martial arts school The Pit, owned/operated by John Hackleman. “It's awesome just having him in my corner,” relates Harvison, and to add to his ridiculous year, nowadays he has the same famous horned rim glasses and goatee that advised the legendary Chuck Liddell now advising him. “You can't get knowledge like he has and all that experience. He had a world champion under him for years with Chuck Liddell. He gives his information straight and to the point and it's not too complicated; you just go in there and execute.”
In “The Big Easy,” New Orleans, Harvison will look to continue his winning ways against Baczynski.
“I'm trying to get ‘Knockout of the Night’, ‘Fight of the Night’, ‘Submission of the Night’ - whatever I can get - and win,” exclaims Harvison, who wants a victory with the utmost authority and, most of all, he wants it to be exciting. “I want to be one of those people that people always want to watch. That's what the fans pay for and I know that's what all the regular Joes in Hooters all over America want to see and that's what I'm trying to do.”
And that’s exactly the type of not normal thinking we like to hear in the UFC.