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Harold Howard: A Tribute

I’ve just completed the UFC 7 recap for the Ranking the UFC series and that means one thing: we’ve seen the last of Harold Howard in the UFC.  I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my hero, and yours, Harold Clarence Howard.

More than any other early UFC fighter, Harold Howard captured the imagination of all mixed martial arts fans.  Combining the looks of a wild Canadian lumberjack and the fighting skills of a wild Canadian lumberjack, Howard was a combat sports tour de force.

Prior to competing in mixed martial arts, Howard was a decorated jujutsu and karate practitioner.  Harold won numerous Canadian championships in the early and mid-1980’s, a tremendous feat given the reputation of the Canadian martial arts community.  Not since “Bad News” Allen Coage had there been such an outstanding Canadian martial arts talent.

A back injury forced Howard out of competition in 1988, but the man made a triumphant return in 1992 winning awards in Sport Karate.  And it was at UFC 3 that Howard became a legend of MMA, narrowly defeating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Royce Gracie.  Howard’s (forfeit) victory over Gracie was surely the peak of his mixed martial arts career.  When that towel flies from the Gracie corner into the cage, Howard celebrates the win with the class of a true champion.

Though a finals loss to Steve Jennum put a pall on the entire tournament, you still can’t take away what Howard earned that night.  Jennum had the liberty of not having previously fought that night, or else Harold Howard would have likely won that tournament.

Howard would not return to the octagon until UFC 7, where his championship hopes were derailed by Mark Hall, who resorted to hair pulling and groin shots in order to win the fight.  Howard was gracious in defeat, as he heartily congratulated his opponent.  Hall was a lucky man that night, as he easily could have been decapitated by a Harold Howard karate chop.

This would be Howard’s final appearance in the UFC, as he would move on to run Harold Howard’s Self-Defense Systems, based out of Niagara Falls in Ontario.  Howard spent many years out of the limelight, living off of the hundreds (thousands?) that he made in the UFC.

That is, until one fateful day in December 2009.  In what must be an awful misunderstanding, Harold Howard was arrested in charged with multiple crimes including attempted murder and assault with a weapon.  The Harold Howard that MMA fans know is a loving, beautiful soul who left us before his time was truly done.  I cannot reconcile this man with the Harold Howard who assaulted his sister and nephew with a hammer and drove his truck into a casino.

Perhaps this was a case of mistaken identity, or maybe it’s a conspiracy against this legendary fighter.  Maybe it was because Howard was hopped up on painkillers, who knows?  I can only hope that Howard will be exonerated for these crimes that this reasonable man of sound mind could not have committed.

In the end, Harold Howard won’t go down as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history.  Rather, he’ll be known as THE greatest fighter in UFC history beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The great fighters of modern MMA owe a debt to Howard, who paved the way for mainstream MMA acceptance.

Harold Howard should never be forgotten by the MMA community, as he’s taught us all that hard work and perseverance will truly pay off.  He’s also taught us all to not load up on Oxycocet and drive your truck after trying to beat your family to death with a hammer.  Harold Howard will live on inside of me, just like I know there’s a little piece of Harold Howard in every one of us.

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