Before last month’s fight at Madison Square Garden, Andre Harrison said it’s easy for him to block out the excitement of fighting at home. The venue, the crowd, the opponent — all things he called “interchangeable.” It’s a mindset that helps him focus on the task at hand: winning his mixed martial arts bout.
So, might Thursday’s fight at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum — about 15 minutes from where Harrison grew up in Freeport and trains in Bellmore — be any different since it is the truest “hometown” fight of his career?
“Naw, man, still the same thing,” Harrison said Tuesday at PFL 4 open workouts at Longo & Weidman MMA in Garden City. “Don’t matter where it’s at. I could literally fight at my house. It’s the same thing. It’s a cage, I’m in there and just fighting. It’s a new opponent, that’s all.”
Harrison (18-0) will fight Nazareno Malegarie (29-4) in their second and last featherweight fight of the PFL’s inaugural regular season. Both Harrison and Malegarie won their first bouts by decision to earn three points. The various tiebreakers put Harrison in fourth place and Malegarie in sixth in the featherweight standings. The top eight fighters advance to the postseason.
Harrison is in the penultimate bout at the Coliseum, with Lance Palmer and Juma Tuerxun, two fighters Harrison already has beaten, in the traditional “main event” slot.
“I’ve heard this buzz going around a couple times, but there’s no main event,” PFL president Carlos Silva said. “The main event is going to be championship night at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 31. That’s the main event. Those are going to be six championship fights for a million dollars. Every fight counts.
“Look, is Andre a main event? Yeah, absolutely. He happens to be the second-to-last fight. He’ll probably be at the peak of the TV audience on NBCSN.”
Harrison didn’t seem to mind much about his location in the bout lineup.
“All it means is I get to leave a little bit earlier,” he said.
Here, please pause for a moment to appreciate the singular focus of Harrison’s approach.
On earning points to move up in the standings: “If I win, I’m in the playoffs. What difference does it make to me if I’m the eighth seed or the first seed? You got to win to win anyway, right?”
On the supposed pressure of fighting at home with friends, family and teammates in the arena instead of watching on television: “What difference does it make? When I fight, the people that would be the added pressure, they watch me anyway. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m just out there, I’m going to perform, enjoy myself and do what I got to do.”
Keith Trimble, Harrison’s trainer at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA and a father figure to him for several years, knows his fighter can handle any pressure that comes his way. He sees Harrison’s physical and mental approach every day.
“The one thing I always try to tell all the guys, we all have problems, we all have stress, we all have anxiety,” Trimble said. “But when you come in, this is your livelihood, for that hour, hour and a half, you have to put that stuff aside. Andre does know how to control it and leave it on the back burner.”
PFL 4 FEATHERWEIGHT FIGHTS
Andre Harrison vs. Nazareno Malegarie
Lance Palmer vs. Juma Tuerxun
Alexandre Almeida vs. Steven Siler
Carl Deaton vs. Bekbulat Magomedov
Marcos Galvao vs. Max Coga
Timur Valiev vs. Darrick Minner
PFL 4 HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHTS
Francimar Barroso vs. Jack May
Alex Nicholson vs. Philipe Lins
Jared Rosholt vs. Kelvin Tiller
Josh Copeland vs. Shawn Jordan
Valdrin Istrefi vs. Daniel Gallemore
Fights start at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook Watch, then switch to NBCSN at 9 p.m.