UFC: A decade in the making for Guyanese Carlston Harris

- Carlston Harris has sacrificed so much over the past decade to become the first Guyanese fighter to win inside the Octagon. He hopes to build on his success this Saturday

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While not much has changed about Carlston Harris in the past nine months, almost everything has changed for him.

The face of Guyanese martial arts brought fame and recognition back to his home country after not one, but two successful first-round finishes inside the Octagon to start his UFC career.

“I’m kind of famous now,” Harris said, laughing at his media day session ahead of UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Strickland.

“They started MMA in Guyana because of me, because I’m the only fighter from Guyana. There are a lot of kids that look up to me and this could be life changing for them.”

“I like to inspire kids. I believe they can look at my path and do the same and dream about a bright future,” Harris added, highlighting that his position as a role model is one that is accepted graciously.

Even though it took eleven years, while Harris may have risen to some level of celebrity status in his home country, not much has changed about him. He’s still the same welterweight who puts in six hours of training a day, watching every fight card and spreading positivity over social media.

Carlston Harris reacts after his submission victory over Christian Aguilera in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 08, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“I think that everything happened at the right time,” Harris said in reference to his decade-long professional career prior to his Octagon debut. “I think if I had gotten to the UFC earlier, I might not be as successful. Now, I have experience.”

That experience may be the difference maker this weekend as Harris prepares to upend the record of an undefeated Shavkat Rakhmonov.

“I know this guy is dangerous, a complete fighter, and has a lot of hype around him, but I’m here to fight. I don’t choose my opponents. Any opponent, I sign the contract and step up to face them,” the welterweight said, seemingly unfazed by Rakhmonov’s 14-straight professional wins — all coming by way of finish. “I’ve seen everything at this point. I went through a lot, with some difficult situations in the cage; I’m a survivor of the cage, and I’m ready.”

Carlston Harris reacts after his submission victory over Christian Aguilera in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 08, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Harris, speaking with a level of confidence that has always been present regardless of opponent, knows that there’s more to the sport than the record shown beside someone’s name.

“Fights are a chess game, and you have to play the game well. Anything can happen in a fight, so you have to play the game well. I don’t look past my opponents; I take things one step at a time.”

The “one step at a time” approach has served the 34-year-old well, as he boasts nine wins in his last ten fights — seven by way of finish — and a five-fight win streak propelling him into Saturday’s match-up.

“You can’t look past me, I surprise people,” Harris said. “I believe in my training, I believe in my team, and I believe in what I do. It’s been years of sacrifice, and I won’t just throw it down the drain.”

As the welterweights in both corners head into their third UFC fight on Saturday at the UFC APEX, “Moçambique” is not only ready, but excited for the challenge ahead of him.

“The biggest mistake? He can’t rush. [Rakhmonov] has to take his time because if he rushes, the lion will be there waiting on him,” Harris said, recognising the opportunity that lies ahead for him.

“This is big. Taking away that zero would be awesome.” (UFC)

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