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"I could have easily fallen into that trap," he says. "But I had my mom and my uncle looking out for me."
After graduating from Palmetto Senior High, Harris obtained an associate's degree in education from Miami-Dade Community College and a bachelor's degree in pre-K and primary education from Barry University. In 1997, he tried out for the Carolina Panthers professional football team. He didn't make the roster but he was signed by an arena football team, the Memphis Xplorers out of Mississippi, and played one season. "It was a very racist town," Harris says. "The risk wasn't worth the reward, so I came back home."
He moved back in with his mother, got a job with the Miami office of the Children's Home Society of Florida, and then a year later as a counselor for ICARE Baypoint Schools, a group home in Kendall for troubled teenage boys.
One night in August of 2003 Harris was pulled over near his house and arrested and charged with a felony of burglary with assault and battery. Harris says it was a case of mistaken identity; he spent 19 days in the Miami-Dade Pretrial Detention Center.
While he was incarcerated, his uncle Roland — who had lived with him since childhood and had been Harris's father figure — was killed in the family's front yard by an unknown assailant who was trying to rob him. "All he had was $1.27 in his pocket," Harris says. "They didn't even take it. If I had been here, maybe that doesn't happen."
A few days later, the charges against Harris were dropped and he was back home. He tattooed his upper back with his uncle's name. Underneath it: "R.I.P."
One day in 2005, while he was mowing his mother's front lawn, Harris ran into an old cat from the neighborhood. It was Kevin Ferguson, aka Kimbo Slice, the man Rolling Stone dubbed "King of the Web Brawlers."
At the time, Kimbo was still working his transition from street brawler to MMA fighter, but he was already a celebrity in the neighborhood because of his YouTube videos. Perrine's most famous son invited Harris to join him as part of his entourage. "I was like 'of course I'll roll with you,'" Harris says. "After that, it was on and poppin'."
Harris traveled the country with Kimbo, working security with Kimbo for the IntheVIP.com porn site shoots. He met a slew of MMA superstars such as Randy Couture, Bass Rutten, and Randy Khatami. "I met a shitload of porn stars too," Harris adds. "And Jacob the Jeweler." (Jacob the Jeweler is the favored jeweler of hip-hop stars such as Jay-Z and Kanye West.)
Spending time with Kimbo convinced Harris that he could follow a similar path. That year he had quit his job with ICARE to take online courses at Barry, financing his education with money he made as a personal trainer. When he joined Team Kimbo, Harris believed that forging a career as a fighter would be a great way to honor his uncle. "I was lifting weights in my front yard with no purpose. Kimbo was an inspiration. He gave me the opportunity to see what I needed to do to build myself up."
In fact, Harris was on the same trajectory as his role model. He says Kimbo's handlers set Harris up with his first back-yard fight. "I destroyed the guy," he says. "But Kimbo was just blowing up and they didn't want to take away from his exposure so they never released the footage."
[New Times left four messages for Kimbo's manager Mike Ember seeking comment for this story. Ember did not respond to the interview request, but several neighbors and friends confirmed Harris was part of Team Kimbo. In addition, Harris posted on YouTube a slideshow of pictures of himself with Kimbo.]
This past February, before Kimbo fought Tank Abbott in his third professional fight, Harris left the big man's entourage. Harris said the friends had a falling out because Kimbo did not approve of his plans to start a back-yard league. "He tried to dissuade me, but this here is my time."
"He didn't want anyone else to come up like he did. He wanted to be the only one who made it out of the back yard. But he wasn't going to stop me."
Harris's first event took place in April, featuring four fighters in a neighbor's back yard a couple of blocks from Harris's house. "I had close to 200 people show up to see these guys battle it out. It just goes to show you ... violence will always sell."
For the second tournament, Stewart told her son to move the venue to her back yard. She told him: "If you are interested in doing these fights, then have it here in this yard so you can collect all the money from the gate."
Harris has promoted the league through word of mouth, flyers, text messages, and, of course, YouTube clips. He charges $20 a head and pays the fighters a few hundred bucks each using the proceeds from the gate receipts.
The most recent event, which took place in July, was filmed by Aurelio Roman, president of Miami-based Night Vision Productions. Roman wanted to work out a business partnership with Harris over the sale and distribution of 1,000 DVDs. But Harris did not agree to Roman's terms. "We had a contractual disagreement," Roman says. "But my plan is to get the DVD distributed in places like Blockbuster, Best Buy, and F.Y.E."