Minutes before midnight, his shirt already having changed from light gray to charcoal from the sweat, Andre Harrison pedaled on the stationary bike.
Bellmore Kickboxing MMA was empty as Friday evolved into Saturday. Just Harrison on the bike and his fiancée sitting on a nearby heavy bag reading a book.
“I should have played checkers,” a tired Harrison said after he completed a 30-minute cardio session of sprints on the bike and treadmill.
This was nothing new for the 30-year-old from Freeport. He works at the gym — some say he lives there — and is of a singular focus as his next bout draws closer.
But this is new for Harrison: the potential of fighting twice in the same night. Harrison, the No. 3 seed, faces sixth-seeded Alexandre Bezerra in the quarterfinals of the PFL featherweight playoffs on Friday in New Orleans. If Harrison (19-0) wins that bout, he would face the winner of No. 2 Lance Palmer and No. 7 Max Coga. The semifinal winner advances to the $1 million championship round at Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve.
“It’s the same thing. A fight is a fight is a fight is a fight,” Harrison said. “Yes, there’s emphasis on gameplan and strategy and you’d want to do this and you should do this in between, but at the end of the day a fight is a fight. You’re going out there, you’re going to compete and it’s whether you’re going to compete good or you’re going to compete poorly. It doesn’t matter if I fight once, twice, three times, I just have to show up when I step out there.”
Harrison fought Bezerra (22-5) in a Titan FC match in 2016, defending his featherweight title by unanimous decision. Harrison also fought Palmer before, beating him by unanimous decision to win the World Series of Fighting title. But Harrison won’t quite allow his mind to wander toward the thought of facing Palmer or Coga just yet.
“Just ‘Popo,’” Harrison said, referring to the Brazilian’s nickname.
With two fights in one night, PFL makes a slight change to its setup. The quarterfinal bout is only two rounds (the semifinal remains three). Your quick math is correct: with two rounds, that easily creates the opportunity for a draw. In that case, the first tiebreaker is the winner of the first round. That puts an emphasis on starting fast.
“You just can’t start slow. The first round, you have to come out, be aggressive, be under control, control the ring, put pressure on them,” trainer Keith Trimble said. “You don’t have time to waste. You can’t just sit there. It’s almost gotta be like that first round is your last round.”
Harrison believes he found the right mental approach to the two-round fight and its unique tiebreaker.
“I just tell myself, ‘Dre, you’re down a round. You’re down a round and you gotta get this round back right now,’” Harrison said. “I just gotta push first, put him on the cage. ‘You’re down a round and you gotta get this back right now.’”