Maybe it’s the promoter in him, but when Dhafir Harris gets on a roll, the words fly faster than the punches in one of those now-infamous unsanctioned bare-knuckle scraps in Miami.
Part carnival barker, part backyard brawler and soon, part Bellator MMA fighter, the man known as “Dada 5000” has plenty to say about plenty of things -- particularly when it comes to ex-running mate Kimbo Slice.
Harris once served as a bodyguard for Slice, who went from YouTube beatdown artist to massive ratings draw in professional mixed martial arts thanks in part to an imposing look and a memorable persona. Eventually, Harris elected to part ways with Team Kimbo, a decision that still strikes a nerve with Slice.
Now that Harris and Slice are booked to lock horns in the Bellator 149 main event on Feb. 19, old wounds are festering. One of the most damning accusations that Slice has levied is that Harris rose to fame in large part by stealing his identity.
“I’m my own person. No, I’m not trying to capitalize off of his fame,” Harris recently told Sherdog.com. “When you look at his beard and tattoos... when you look at stereotypes, that describes everybody in [South Florida] over the age of 25: big, black with beards and tattoos. He didn’t invent the beard just like he didn’t invent fighting.
“I would give him credit... he did inspire me to get in the game. But when I got the ball in my hands, I ran a different route. I took it a different way.”
Harris found himself in the spotlight with the release of “Dawg Fight,” a Billy Corben-directed documentary which chronicles his work as both a fighter and a promoter in building the backyard scene in South Florida. Since then, Harris points out that he has appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, ESPN the Magazine, Miami Herald, Washington Times, Maxim and National Geographic, among others. Additionally, he made cameos in a commercial for EA Sports “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2014” and an Akon music video.
“I feel like I did pretty damn well for a guy out of the backyard. I’m a business man. This business is 90 percent strategy, 10 percent talent and I understand that,” Harris said. “I didn’t have any machines behind me. I didn’t have no marketing giants. But I had a game plan.
“And I understood the methods, presentation and delivery to the point that I got corporate America to trade in their suits and ties for tennis shoes and baseball hats and go down South Florda. Because the greatest thing that’s coming up next may not come from an MMA camp or boxing facility. It could come right out of a backyard.”
Harris takes exception to Slice’s insinuation that the backyard business took a turn for the worse once he took over. “Dada 5000” doesn’t deny that injuries occur, but for the most part, he believes unsanctioned combat is thriving in Florida.
“I’m the referee, I’m the matchmaker. I let these guys know who they’re fighting, how much they’re getting paid, what style of fighting they’re fighting, when to be there. I make sure the marketing and promotions is done. I’m out there cutting the damn grass,” Harris said. “I’m doing everything these major dudes are doing. I’m just doing it on a smaller level.
“He said people are getting knocked out. Of course. This is the hurt business. But guess what?... Almost a decade in the game, the police have never got called; the paramedics have never had to come out and administer first aid or take a person off. I think that I did very well.”
Even though is fight with Slice his looming, Harris is not out of the promotion business -- not by a long shot. The red-mohawked heavyweight is working to get his fledgling organization, Backyard Brawls Extreme Fighting Series (BYB) established. The fights, something of a hybrid between MMA and boxing with a smaller rulebook, take place in a three-sided cage called the Trigone, which Harris says costs $30,000. Harris plans on holding his events on “Indian reservations across the country.”
Boxers & wrestlers fight in the ring. MMA Fighters use the Octagon. Backyard brawlers we fight in the BYB Trigone. pic.twitter.com/Pp9dy91JEG— DADA 5000 (@therealdada5000) October 21, 2015
Regardless of how his venture fares, Harris sees himself as a provider of opportunity for the people of his neighborhood. Where Slice didn’t want to see others succeed, “Dada 5000” says he opens doors.
“You made it; you wanted to shut the door on everybody else. And right when the door was shut, here comes Dada 5000, I’m sticking my foot inside the middle of it. And I create avenues for other individuals who feel like they could be the next Kimbo Slice,” Harris said. “We all know that this business is really political. You’ve got to be the right height, the right weight, the right everything. They have to critique you . This is the business age. Where’s the grey area in the backyard? We do things that hopefully bring bigger programs like Bellator that will hopefully see some of these guys that have promise.”
For now, it’s up to Harris, he of two bouts’ MMA experience against opposition with a combined 1-16 record, to use the Bellator cage to send a message to his onetime friend. Despite their lingering animosity, Harris says he was cheering for Slice when his fellow Miami native escaped from a Ken Shamrock choke to knock out “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” in the first round at Bellator 138.
“I was screaming to the fucking top of my lungs: ‘Get your ass up, get up.’ Everybody that this dude fought rooted for him,” Harris said. “But this time this involves me. I wanted to see the dude succeed. Now that he’s fighting me, it’s going to be a short night at the office. It’s only because he started this tough guy, wolf pack behavior. That’s disrespectful s--t. ..You’re gonna see a bully in that motherf---ing cage.”
How -- and where -- Harris will prepare to put a hurting on Slice is much less clear. While Slice calls the renowned Florida-based camp American Top Team home, the 38-year-old Harris possesses no such allegiance. In fact, it sounds as though he is banking on his own resourcefulness to get him to Bellator 149.
“Believe it or not, I’ve got everything I need in my backyard. I have trust issues. My last fight, I pretty did a lot of things hands on myself,” he said. “Somebody asked me, ‘Where you gonna be training?’ Various places, but outside for the most part. I like road work. I don’t machinery with cords and s--t. I like to work out with big weight. That’s why I’m so strong, that’s why I’m so powerful.”
Harris doesn’t give much indication as to whether he plans to fight for Bellator MMA again after Feb. 19. However, he is quite certain that Slice will have had his fill of sanctioned cage fighting after their bout.
“Trust me on that. Because no one else is gonna want to deal with him after they see this massive ass whooping. Once I get through with him, I’m gonna offer him a job. He can come over to BYB and fight for me,” Harris said. Whatever Scott [Coker] and them want to do, I’m open to this business. But Kimbo Slice will be fighting with me for BYB after this fight.
“He’s a creature of habit. You always come back to where you start. You had a wonderful journey. You fought out of your backyard. You made a lot of money. You toured. You went pro. but now you’re coming right back to the back yard. When he comes back to the backyard, we’ve got ton and tons and tons of guys waiting on his ass.”