With a flood of featherweight talent in the world of MMA, it doesn’t hurt to be an absolute killer at 145 pounds. The division is stacked across all the major promotions, with guys like Conor McGregor, José Aldo and Max Holloway sitting atop the UFC, Daniel Straus and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire jockeying for dominance in Bellator, and Lance Palmer recently taking back his crown in the World Series of Fighting. There’s no room for slouches in the featherweight division. Andre “The Bull” Harrison is no slouch.
Harrison was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He grew up in Long Island, N.Y. He wrestled at Fort Hays University in Kansas, but he has been back in New York ever since. He trains at the famed Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, which has hosted top-level UFC competitors like Chris Weidman and Dennis Bermudez, and is only four miles from his former high school. Harrison has traveled far and wide in his relatively young life. In his even younger five and a half year career, he has managed to remain undefeated through 15 fights, including title reigns in the Ring of Combat and Titan FC. His opponents have been anything but pushovers.
While in Titan, the native Trinidadian bested UFC vets Kurt Holobaugh and Steven Siler, as well as former Titan champ Desmond Green. In his WSOF debut last December, Harrison choked out veteran Bruce Boyington in less than two minutes, which moved him immediately to the front of the line.
“[The WSOF] told me I came out strong in my first fight, and said they’d like to have me come back and fight Lance Palmer for the title,” Harrison told Combat Press. “We were all for it. It was an easy decision.”
On Saturday night, Harrison will be back in the cage, only four hours from his gym, serving as the co-main event at WSOF 35, which takes place at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y.
Palmer captured the WSOF featherweight title from Rick Glenn in December 2014, defended it once over Chris Horodecki, but ran into a hiccup when he lost the strap to Alexandre de Almeida almost exactly a year after he captured it. In July, Palmer was able to regain the title, but he hasn’t fought since. Harrison is ready to dethrone the king once again.
“He’s a tough dude,” Harrison said. “He’s got a great skill set, but, match-up-wise, I think I’ll edge it out. I have what it takes to beat him.”
Harrison, like Palmer, has a solid wrestling base and a dynamic striking arsenal. The match-up is very close, but Harrison did not hesitate to step up his wrestling training in preparation for Palmer’s style of fighting. In addition to his regular coaches, Bellmore’s Keith Trimble and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Joe Scarola, Harrison brought in a bunch of All-American wrestlers to help him.
“I felt really good this training camp,” Harrison said. “Everything went good. I brought in some tough people to help me out, and we’re just ready to rock and roll.
“You guys are going to see a great fight — two guys who are really going at it. Lance has his own reasons why he should be training hard, and I have my own reasons why I did. I’ve been training hard, and you’re going to see the best of both individuals coming in. We’re two elite 145ers, so this could be one of the very best featherweight fights you see this year.”
While Palmer has been sidelined for eight months, Harrison has been a busy guy, fighting on a quarterly basis. In 2016, he defended his Titan belt three times — in March, June and September — and he followed the title reign up with his WSOF win on New Year’s’ Eve in the promotion’s New York debut. Life outside of fighting has been very limited, but he’s hoping for a little relief after he fights
“When I fought Bruce Boyington, we got notice of the Lance Palmer fight before I even left the arena,” Harrison explained. “So, I’ve pretty much been training straight through. Luckily, I didn’t take much damage in the Bruce Boyington fight, so I went right into camp, and I’ve been in camp ever since. After this fight, I’m going to look to take a little mini vacation.
“I’m from Trinidad, so I’ll probably go to Trinidad, eat some real good food, relax a little bit and see some family. I don’t get back there too often with all these fights coming along. I’ve been talking to my cousins, and they’ve been pretty much harassing me about coming down sometime, because it’s been so long. It’s been a couple years now since I’ve been back.”
Whether he needs a vacation or not is irrelevant this week. With two impressive title runs already under his wings, Harrison is laser focused on getting another important belt to add to his collection.
“I think it will be good, man,” said Harrison. “I think it will be me trying to solidify a legacy, almost. I seem to get to the top of the heap. I get a belt and I defend it, you know? To be able to do that in the World Series of Fighting would be something special for me.”
With so many up-and-coming featherweights constantly entering the fray, the best thing a guy like Harrison can do is stay undefeated and keep collecting belts. At this pace, he could be in the UFC’s top 10 in no time, but he understands this is no easy task. However, his formula for success is quite simple.
“Hard work,” Harrison said. “Tons and tons and tons of hard work. I’m just doing what other people might not want to do — or they might think it’s crazy to do — and that’s how it’s done.”