He describes himself as “a bit of a geek” but we see him as anything but. Also known as The Hound, Nik Harris is no newbie in the world of mixed martial arts. The charming 27 year old is ranked one of the top four middleweight fighters in Southeast Asia who has represented Malaysia at international arenas more than once and holds an impressive fight record under his belt.
Nik took some hard punches outside of the ring as well. He faced an episode in his life where he was overweight and living an unhealthy lifestyle. The routine of a desk job was getting the better of him and he strived to find meaning beyond the perimeters of his cubicle space. MMA became an escape and it was there he found purpose and the courage to chase his passion.
What were you doing before mix martial arts came into the picture?
I spent about 9 to 10 hours a day in an office cubicle, but I felt like I was meant to do more with my life. When I was growing up, I looked up to Muhammad Ali. He transcended being a sportsman and successfully built his legacy, and in a way I wanted to build my own legacy as well. Five years on, I’ve represented Malaysia in international fighting competitions around the world.
There are a lot of people who train MMA, but it’s completely different going into a fight. Tell us how being in a fight differs from training.
It’s hard to explain now because it’s something that you only experience when you’re in the ring. In training you can have fun; it’s not everyday that someone will call me up to fight in front of a crowd with the audience either cheering or booing me. You can choose to be the person that just turns up to fight and earn money while doing it or you can choose to have it be a platform for you to enjoy the experience while learning things along the way. It’s about being the person you think you are, and then surprising yourself by going beyond that.
"It’s about being the person you think you are, and then surprising yourself by going beyond that."
Share with us your first fighting experience.
[Laughs] It was in a very dodgy club in Mont Kiara that smelled of beer and cigarette smoke. I was training for about a month and a half when my coach said that he’s signed me up for a fight. When the day finally arrived, it was like a scene out of a movie - you don’t believe it until you’re actually in it. I was up against an experienced guy who had fought in Thailand and there I was, fresh meat filled with naivete. We fought for two rounds and I was really tired. He hit me hard and I wasn’t sure what was going on. The shouting you hear just becomes a language of tongues and you feel like you’re fighting for your life, but you’re too afraid to care about those things. At the end of the second round, he was knocked out and couldn’t respond to the bell and with that, I had my first taste of victory. It’s not easy to believe in yourself all of the time, but when you overcome doubt and go that extra mile, it makes life a lot more worth living.
What made you decide you want to do this professionally?
Heartbreak - nothing motivates a person more than painful heartbreaks. I was at a crossroad in my life where I was addicted to MMA and I wanted to pursue this professionally but my family, friends and girlfriend weren’t entirely on board with that idea. It’s like taking a shot in the dark; if I asked you for RM10,000 to invest in me, you’d be skeptical. I fired blindly and decided to quit my job to pursue MMA full time. There were times where I starved and couldn’t even afford detergent but if you ask me right now, I would not give this up for anything else because it’s a journey that nothing else can ever give you.
One thing I’ve heard a lot about martial arts is that it’s all about respect - tell us about that.
There is no fight without the other man. The mentality of a Samurai is the best way to explain this; it’s called budo - spirit of the warrior. To a Samurai, it’s very important that honour and respect are fulfilled. You always point the sword as an extension of your heart. Martial arts is an extension of my heart. I can’t draw my sword if it’s rusty or dull, but only if it can cut clean. It transcends more than just words. I can say that I respect you, but how can I convey it while we’re bashing each other up?
In a sentence, what motivates you to go the extra mile?
It’s like a scene from a movie where after the hero gets shot, memories of his loved ones then flash before his eyes and he gets the strength he needs to get back up. It’s like that for me - not that I see my whole life flash before my eyes, but I see what’s important. And because I know what that is, I won’t stop chasing what I’ve set out to accomplish. A lot of people want to see the returns of their investments immediately. If you want more in life but you feel you can’t reach for it, the question to ask yourself is ‘who’s stopping you?’ If you find that you don’t have that willpower yet, don’t give up - it’s a journey to get there. I started off weighing at 98kg and with lots of doubts, but now here I am healthier and fitter - I feel great!
"It’s not easy to believe in yourself all of the time, but when you overcome doubt and go that extra mile, it makes life a lot more worth living."
Success doesn't happen overnight, and Nik Harris perfectly exemplifies this. Whether it’s heartache, overcoming doubts, or simply getting past the notion of ‘I can’t do it’, it’ll take persistence and perhaps even years of hard work to see your vision begin to bear fruit. Nik has put professional fighting on hold for the time being as his career outside the ring takes off. His confidence and charisma have landed him a commentary role for the Freestyle Fullcontact Fight Championship otherwise known as the F-3 Championship; and we’ll be seeing a lot more of him that’s for sure.
#gotheextramile is a collaboration series with Ash Be Nimble to feature Malaysian fitness heroes who run that extra mile, wake up that extra hour earlier and endure that very last burpee. Together, we hope to inspire many more young spirits to work hard, dream big and never quit. For more similar stories, check out our hashtag #gotheextramile.
"If you find you don’t have that willpower yet, don’t give up - it’s a journey to get there."