Upon first glance, one might not suspect Harris Stephenson as a competitor in one of the most grueling combat sports on the planet.
The 29-year old professional mixed martial artist works full time as a School Resource Officer for the Gulfport, Mississippi Police Department. His MMA records stands at six wins with one loss, and he has also fought on two of the first four Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship fight cards. He may look young, and he may hold a career in law enforcement, but there is another side to "Sandman."
We recently had an opportunity to speak with one of Bare Knuckle FC's brightest stars in hopes to uncover the alter ego of Harris Stephenson.
You work full time as a School Resource Officer. What do any of the students/staff think about you competing in bare knuckle boxing? Are you treated a celebrity of sorts? Does anyone make comments as you walk through the halls?
"March made 7 years for me with the Gulfport Police Department and I am currently in my second year as an School Resource Officer (SRO). I made the transition to SRO shortly after my wife and I had our youngest daughter to have a set Monday – Friday schedule with most holidays off. The administration from my police department and the staff from the school I’m assigned to think I’m a little crazy for fighting, but especially doing bare knuckle. However, they are all supportive though because they know it’s purely competitive for me and a lot of them have been to events to see me fight. I am currently assigned to a local High School so students who know about my fighting are very intrigued by it and do ask me about it frequently. I don’t necessarily hide my fight career from students but I certainly don’t brag about being a fighter either. I have always tried to keep both my job as a police officer and my job as a fighter separated to prevent assumptions of the type of person I am based on either profession. Looking at me, you’d never guess that I am a fighter so it’s’ easy to conceal that part of my life. I’m not afraid to say that I look like a nerd outside of the ring which part of the reason BKFC President David Feldman dubbed me the “The Clark Kent of Bare Knuckle.” At our first sit down TV interview, not one, but two separate news anchors assumed based on our looks that I was the promoter and David was the fighter. We both got a kick out of that."
You have fought twice now for BKFC, recording both a win and a loss. What is about not only the company, but the sport that keeps you coming back?
"From the first moment I saw highlights of BKFC 1 from June 2, 2018 I was drawn to the sport as a fan. Once I learned they were coming to my backyard for BKFC 2, and were looking for a local standout to take part in the event, I immediately sent my résumé over. A few days later I met with David Feldman in person at a local casino and we talked about our expectations for the event. As if the highlights hadn’t had me already sold on BKFC, David’s enthusiasm and vison of what he planned to accomplish in the upcoming months was icing on the cake for me. A few days later I received a multi-fight contract with BKFC. I knew BKFC was going to take off, and the fact I was getting in early to grow with the sport, was very exciting and humbling for me. My first fight at BKFC 2, I was able to win via a first round 26-second KO, so I didn’t get to experience much of the sport. My second appearance at BKFC 3, I was in a bloody war before finally getting caught in the fifth round. I think my second fight had me hooked more into the sport than my first fight did, however it did show me that I had a lot of holes in my boxing game that I needed to fix. The fact that with bare knuckles you have to pick and choose your shots and when to throw the power shot intrigues me. Like I said I’m earlier, I’m a nerd, so I look at this like a puzzle I need to solve. I’ve worked for the last several months on fixing just my boxing so I’m excited to show how much I’ve grown as a boxer April 6."
You will be competing at BKFC 5 on April 6. Who are fighting and what do you know about them?
"I will be fighting Kaleb “Lion Heart” Harris for BKFC 5. Kaleb was undefeated at 3-0 until recently when he lost a title shot for Summit Fighting Championships (SFC) on March 09 by way of submission. He’s known as a striker so I think the transition for him into BKFC will be smoother than mine was since I was known in MMA as a submission guy. He is a black belt in some form of martial arts but I’m not sure which style. Several people have told me he is dedicated, tough, and will come in shape. I don’t believe he’s ever been knocked out so I know I have a solid test in front of me which only fuels me to train harder. I fight to end fights, win, lose, or draw, and have never been to a decision in an of my nine amateur MMA fights, seven professional MMA fights or two Bare Knuckle fights and I don’t intend for this to be any different."
You also compete in MMA. Talk about the differences in fight preparation between MMA and bare knuckle.
"Preparing for Bare Knuckle is a different animal than preparing for MMA. Bare Knuckle is 5 x 2 min rounds rather than MMA’s 3 x 5 min rounds. Two minute rounds may sound easier but it is at a much higher pace which takes getting used to. The one good thing about training for a BKFC fight rather than an MMA fight is I can focus on just one aspect of my game fully rather than having to go to several different classes (muay thai, jiu jitsu, wrestling, etc). I have always felt like I have had good conditioning with my MMA career but I have definitely kicked it up to prepare for bare knuckle. Every camp I’ve done for BKFC I’ve figured out a new and better way to prepare. Coming off of a loss that exposed some of my weaknesses in technical boxing has motivated me to go back to the drawing board and research old school boxing drills. Weekdays, I am up around 4 a.m ., to get at least an hour fasted cardio session in before work. After I get off of work I get back into training, working on technique followed by more cardio/strength and conditioning. Weekends, I’m in the gym sparring with some of the top talent around such as Jason Knight who will be headlining BKFC 5 against Artem Lobov."