The world of mixed martial arts is far from a meritocracy. Winning fights is the primary goal, but victories don’t guarantee much.
Just ask Andre Harrison.
The Long Islander will make his World Series of Fighting debut on Dec. 31 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden against kickboxer Bruce Boyington (14-9, 2-0 WSOF).
It’s a solid opportunity for an unbeaten prospect before a home audience, but despite Harrison’s 14-0 record, it still took a mixture of timing and luck — both good and bad — for the bout to come to fruition.
“It feels like a good fit, man,” he said of joining WSOF. “Everything happens for a reason. It was one of those things where everything just worked out.”
Harrison was scheduled to fight last month in the New Jersey-based promotion Ring of Combat, where he once was featherweight champion, but the bout was scrapped when his opponent pulled out with an injury.
“I heard the news and it was frustrating,” Harrison said. “You go through an entire training camp, you want to go out there and showcase what you’ve been doing, what you’ve been learning, and that didn’t happen.”
It was supposed to be a return to local competition for Harrison, 28, who wrestled at Freeport High School and trains out of Bellmore Kickboxing. In 2014, he left Ring of Combat for Titan FC, a larger promotion, where he won another championship and gained valuable cage experience fighting across the country.
“I got a lot out of Titan. I actually did the math the other day — I defended for the Titan title four times and that totaled out to be 18 five-minute rounds, which is about an hour and a half of being out there fighting in a championship bout,” he said. “And this is all in different states, different crowds different opponents, so the experience I got out of those bouts is something you can’t really pay for.”
After fighting around the country for nearly two years, Harrison chose to leave Titan and take a Ring of Combat bout as a chance to let family and friends see him work live. But when the bout was canceled, he was back to being a free agent with nothing lined up.
That’s when his bad luck turned good.
Soon after things fell through, Harrison was in discussion with WSOF. Less than a week later, he had a fight lined up against Boyington.
Instead of competing at the Tropicana in Atlantic City for a few hardcore fans in the Northeast, he’ll fight at Madison Square Garden for a national audience on New Year’s Eve.
“I don’t think that has actually hit me yet, only because I’m such a simple dude that I don’t really think about that kind of stuff,” Harrison said about fighting at MSG. “But as an entertainer or performer, one of your goals on your bucket list is to perform at MSG. For me, I’m happy I get to do that now.”
The fight solves his short-term objective of fighting near family but also gives him a chance at a permanent home with WSOF.
“I believe they’re one of the bigger circuits. As far as pay wise, they match out with the UFC and Bellator,” Harrison said. “It’s a multi-fight deal, and if everything’s going the way that it’s going now, it probably will be a long-term thing.”
He has aspirations of joining David Branch, Justin Gaethje and Marlon Moraes as WSOF champions, but he needs to get through Boyington first.
“We have completely opposite strengths, his being more so on the feet and mine being more so in wrestling and grappling,” Harrison said. “That’s not to say that I can’t strike or he can’t grapple, but it makes for a fighting matchup.”
Despite the different styles, Harrison isn’t changing his game plan for Boyington’s style and believes a ground-and-pound or submission finish is in his future.
“It’s just what I’ve been envisioning,” Harrison said. “Any time I sit there and think about the fight, that’s how I see it going. ”