Phil "Billy" Harris "You’ve got to be in it to win it"

Phil "Billy" Harris is the man no-one wanted to fight for a long time. Regarded as the number one flyweight in the UK and probably the whole of Europe, he has struggled to get matched in the division over the last 18 months or so. This is mainly due to his vast experience fighting - by necessity it has to be said due to there being no flyweight division until recently - out of his preferred weight class.

Still only twenty-eight years old but already an eight year veteran of the UKMMA scene, he began fighting MMA pretty much as soon as he discovered it back in 2003. Harris has a strong Judo background having begun training at the age of 8, He went on to earn his black belt and made the GB team at 18. He also boasts an impressive 10-1-0 white collar boxing record.

In MMA, his record currently stands at 21-9-0 and he has campaigned at all weights up to Welterweight in his quest to get fights that test his abilities. Walking around at 65 kilos at his heaviest though, puts him at an immediate disadvantage when fighting out of his natural weight class. His losses have all come to tough guys who outweighed him significantly: Top 10 fighters like Paul McVeigh (Bantamweight) and Ashleigh Grimshaw (Featherweight) for instance.

He has also faced none other than current UFC Featherweight champion and one of the P4P greats of MMA, Jose Aldo. I asked Phil about this fight and what he knew of Aldo going into the match:

"I was offered the fight and I think he was 6-0-0 at the time. I'd won 6 in a row at that point also. Although I'd been told how good he was, I only want tough fights so I was happy for the test. I've now got a 2 inch scar that reminds me that Jose is one bad mofo but like the saying goes 'You've got to be in it to win it".

When BAMMA introduced a 57kilos division last year, "Billy" found his niche and notched two convincing decision wins with the promotion against Steve 'Taz' McCombe and Neil Seery. Those wins against top opponents, coupled with his own vast experience seemed to scare off potential opponents on the domestic scene though, and Phil is now without a fight since his last victory on BAMMA 3.

Phil has his own thoughts on whether his experience has been an issue with getting him matched:

"Yes this has 100% been an issue. Why would a promoter fly a top guy in for me or let me beat up his local ticket seller? I know Shock n Awe have tried very hard to find me a fight and I can tell you now that some very good fighters have all said no stating things like I'm too experienced. They should have just said they were scared, what are they fighting for if not to test themselves against the number one guy in the UK"

It is clear that there is more momentum behind the lighter divisions, with the recent TUF series featuring Bantamweights and Featherweights and the announcement of a UFC Flyweight division. In the UK top shows like BAMMA and Shock n Awe are flying the flag for "midget fights" and Phil is suddenly in the crosshairs of the emerging flyweights who are looking for a big name on their record. He is seen as a no-lose fight: A fighter isn't immediately expected to beat the number one guy and if they do then they are immediately fired into the upper echelons of the division. Phil's sound bite on this is a clear message to those fighters who have their eye on his number one status.

"Everyone want to be where I am now, I'm basically everyone's FA cup final. I'll tell you now, I'm here to stay."

Never one to shy away from telling it how it is, his coach Brian Adams weighs in on this very subject:

"Trying to match Phil Harris has been frustrating because I've personally approached many of the experienced or ranked flyweights and all have turned down a fight with Phil. There was talk of Phil getting a BAMMA title shot as he had 2 wins on the show but they couldn't secure a top opponent. Now fighting Phil is a no lose fight but I'm not going to entertain the domestic guys who ducked him previously "because he was too experienced" or "they wanted to get a few wins at Flyweight first, MAYBE in the future". Over the last 6 months there have been lots
of flyweights talking about fights, where were they over the past 2 years?

Now the UFC have a division it's looked at as an easier division to get established in and to a point it is until you get to the top 2 fighters. I've read that there are a few top bantams saying they're gonna drop to u57kg, but one thing I know is this. Making weight is one thing, fighting at the pace Phil Harris sets at u57kg is a whole different ball game! This kid has won at u77kg pro - at his natural weight he's a monster. "

Brian is head coach of South Coast Submissions / GYM01 and Harris is full or praise for his training partners at the gym.

"I can turn up any night and know I'm in for a hard time as the strength in depth of the training partners is getting tougher. Every night you're guaranteed to have top quality guys pushing you to the limit".

Gym01 is unique in the UK as it boasts one of the largest stables of high calibre fighters at the lower end of the weight divisions and this has buoyed Harris' spirits even further knowing that he has the right guys to train for fights with:

"It's great, how many gyms can boast 12+ quality U65kg to U57kg fighters to train with, not all are household names so to speak but they will be. I don't feel there are many other gyms in the UK that can rival this gyms little guys right now."

Harris trains 6 days a week and fits training in on an evening after work. When prepping for fights he would normally also get morning session in before work as well. For his Strength and Conditioning he works with Phil Carpenter and credits Phil with getting him through his last fight:

"In my last fight I was quite ill the week before and leading up to the day and it was only the fact I hadn't got a fight in so long and the great shape I was in that got me through the match."

Harris is known for his conditioning and the pace he can set in a fight but with twelve of his wins coming by submission, it is clear he is most at home in the grappling phases of a fight. On his own style Phil had this to say:

"Yeah my background is a grappling base so I guess I'm most comfortable on the floor, but I'll punch anyone in the face wherever the fight goes."

Together with teammates Mike Ling, Mok Rahman and James Brum, Harris has recently been signed by Cagewarriors management company Warrior Promotions Fight Management. This has been a massive step for Phil:

"Signing for CW is amazing, it's without doubt the biggest thing to of happened to me in the last 8 years, I'd like to thank Graham Boylan for the opportunity and hopefully I can repay the faith he has so far shown in me. I'm looking forward to finding out who my next opponent is -whoever it is going for a nap".

While Phil welcomes any fights that Cagewarriors have for him, it is obvious he has his eyes on the big prize and a place in the UFC's Flyweight division

Who wouldn't want to fight in the UFC! I've fought on Europes biggest shows and I'd jump at the chance to fight in the new UFC flyweight division. I'm ready.... are they? To be fair though Cagewarriors are putting on amazing events beamed all around the World and the exposure from that show isn't to be underestimated. I'm just as happy to fight for them and get myself a shiny belt before I go to the big show.

If the UFC had a flyweight division 3 years ago I'd be a household name now. I've only lost to guy's who outweighed me by six or more kilos on the night and are top fighters in their own divisions. Hopefully with Warrior Promotions Fight Managements help, I can get to where I think I belong and show everyone how good midget scraps can be!"

I asked Phil if there any particular fighters on his radar that he'd love to fight right now, and he only wants top guys.

"Check out the Fightmatrix top 20, if they are in there then I want to test myself against them. My training camps are so tough - why would I waste them on a peanut? I'm 21.9.0, who cares if I beat a bum and go 22.9.0? It's about testing myself now, not padding records like lots of other so called fighters do."

The new UFC flyweight division isn't going to be heavily populated initially and as Brian alluded to earlier, it may be seen by some as an easy route to the UFC - if indeed there is such a thing! We may see Bantams and even Featherweights looking to cut right down in an effort to put their stamp on the division. I asked Phil if he thought that some of the UK bantams might go this route and if any "new faces" in the domestic and European 57kg division would interest him as opponents and he was very frank in his response.

"To be honest I don't really care about those guys unless they were VERY highly ranked previously. A 5.5.0 bantamweight trying to become a top flyweight needs to beat good flyweights before I'll look at them as a potential opponent"

As far as the flyweights setting the standard on the world stage right now, Phil was full of praise for Ian McCall:

"Ian McCall is the man! Amazing fighter - I'd love the chance to get punched in the face by him. I can't wait to watch the flyweights raise the bar in the UFC, the bantamweights did it so imagine what the midgets could do!"

It is clear then that the dream for Phil is to make it all the way to the top and we rounded off the interview with another great quote:

"If that's not any serious fighters dream then take up Golf, you won't get hurt and the money is way better."

"I'd like to thank Brian and Gareth at GYM01, all my team mates and my conditioning coach Phil Carpenter. I must also thank my beautiful wife Debbie for putting up with me and becoming a gym widow."

You can follow Phil on twitter:
Or view his YouTube channel:

Interview by Graham Cooke: Read his blog at

Published by Steve Wickett - Wed, 14 Dec 2011 20:12

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