Hurry up and wait. This is one of the most annoying situations. It’s like being in a big hurry to go to a concert, a ride at Disney World or a sporting event. The adrenaline is flowing and stress levels are maxing out. Then, all of a sudden, you’re just standing in a big line with the rest of the cattle. In combat sports, there is a concept even worse than this: hurry up and fail.
Too often, a fighter gets in such a hurry to be the next star that he loses focus on the fundamentals and fine-tuning of his craft. He will go quickly from a winning streak to a losing skid and then fall into the shadows, where he may be lucky to end up as another regional journeyman.
Harvey Park knew he wanted to be in law enforcement, but he, legally, wasn’t quite ready. He also knew that he wanted to be a professional athlete, but he didn’t want to rush it. He ended up a portrait of patience, and it has, thus far, paid off.
“One day, we had a high-schooler in our office asking about police, and I was telling her that the good cops wanted to be cops since they were young,” Curry County Sheriff’s Deputy Park told Combat Press. “Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a cop, and I joined the Navy when I was 19, because you have to be 21 to be a cop. I did four years in the Navy. I took some time off to go to school and then I gravitated right back towards it.”
In 2013, Park joined the local Sheriff’s department in Clovis, N.M. He was an experienced cop after serving in the Military Police during his Navy tenure. However, before he started his career in law enforcement, he was developing a dual career in mixed martial arts.
“I just like fighting,” Park said. “I’ve been a lifelong athlete. I love competition, and I like fighting. The two go hand-in-hand. I just fell into it in my early twenties, and I was good. You go one day, and 10 years later, you got 20 fights, and where did the time go? Especially if it’s something you’re passionate about.”
Park has two passions in life. It’s an odd combination — one is about helping others, whereas the other is about hurting people. One has to wonder if these two careers complement each other, but that is another topic of conversation. Today, Park has an amateur fighting record of 6-1 and a pro record of 10-2. He probably didn’t need to wait through seven amateur fights to go pro — especially with five finishes and his only amateur loss coming via split decision — but he didn’t want to half-ass it.
“My first amateur fight was Halloween in 2010, and my first pro fight was Halloween of 2014,” Park explained. “I’ve always taken it seriously. Even when I was an amateur, I was training like I was a pro. I was just trying to gain experience. For me, I’ve always trained hard, and even as an amateur, I came out very professional.
“When I was an amateur, I didn’t have to worry about having to pay bills, or do this or do that. I had a career, so I was never in a hurry to go pro, because I didn’t need the money. A lot of times, these amateurs see the money, and it’s not even big money, but they’ll go pro before they should. I built up a lot of experience as an amateur before I went pro.”
Park’s patience paid off, as his pro record shows. Now, five years later, he has nine stoppages and has only been stopped Once. His last two fights went the distance. One decision was a loss to fellow rising start Austin Hubbard in May 2018 when the Legacy Fighting Alliance went up to Vail, Colo. The last one was a win over Le’Ville Simpson at LFA 53 in Phoenix in November.
In the fight with Simpson, something crazy happened. In the first round, Park fractured his right ring finger to the point that the bone was sticking out. He was patient, as usual, and kept on going.
“I broke my finger pretty quick,” said Park. “I’m going to remember that fight for a long time. I had the mental toughness to keep going. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I had to change the game plan up to really find out what I could do with an injured finger. It was a takeaway to know that I’ve been in there and I’ve been hurt.
“It was the weirdest thought. I looked at it, and it was so white. I thought, ‘It looks just like a chicken drumstick.’ It looked exactly the same, and that’s the first thing I thought. The next thing I thought was, ‘Forget it, don’t get your head kicked off.’ It took a tenth of a second. I saw it, I put it down, and I just kept going. I remember one time, I threw it and it kind of hurt in the end of the second [round]. The way it was broken, unless I was slapping, I didn’t think it would manipulate that joint. As long as I threw the right pretty straight, it didn’t hurt. What really hurt was the grappling, and trying to grab and grip. That was really compromised.”
Park impressed a lot of people with his grit and toughness. He never cried about it. He never felt sorry for himself. He put his head down and got the win. That’s all that matters. The recovery from the compound fracture took about six weeks, which put him right in line for his next opportunity with the LFA organization. On Friday night, live on AXS TV from the Route 66 Casino Hotel in Albuquerque, N.M., Park headlines LFA 58 against Jaleel Willis of Memphis, Tenn.
“We heard LFA was coming back to New Mexico, and I wanted to be on the card,” Park said. “It was going to be a close timeline with my finger to get cleared, but it was just enough time to have a good six-week camp.”
Park primarily trains out of Force of One gym in Clovis with longtime coach Eric Suan. He will also occasionally go to Albuquerque to train at Jackson’s MMA Acoma.
Willis, Park’s upcoming opponent, is 9-1 as a Pro. He is also 1-1 under the LFA banner, but he is coming down a weight class for the first time in his career.
“I think he’s going to put that pace and his weight on me, wrestle, use his ground game, and use tactics against the cage,” said the Sheriff’s deputy. “I know he’s coming down to [155 pounds], and it’s his first time at , so there’s a couple unknowns about him fighting at that weight class.”
Willis may have a wrestling style, as well as being used to fight bigger opponents, but Park is one inch taller and, while he didn’t grow up wrestling formally, he comes from a big family. There was plenty of unorganized fighting happening for much of his life. Park has already shown his toughness and his grit. On Friday, night, he will be ready to show the world, that his patience is also paying off.
“There’s no quit, and lots of heart,” said Park. “I’m always entertaining. Especially in this fight, there’s going to be a lot of stand-up, and I’m letting these hands go. We’re going to be looking for the knockout.”