Strikeforce and IFL vet Harris Sarmiento (R) lands a knee (Photo by Greg Honda)

There isn’t much that X-1 lightweight champion Harris Sarmiento (31-20) hasn’t seen during his mixed martial arts career.

A veteran of Strikeforce, the International Fight League, King of the Cage, and pretty much every other major North American promotion outside of the UFC, Sarmiento has faced the likes of Josh Thomson, Bart Palaszewski, Roger Huerta, “Razor” Rob McCullough and Nick Diaz. He’s won some and he’s lost some, but Sarmiento has always been the epitome of a hard-working, steely veteran.

While the most recognizable fighters at the top level now train full-time, Sarmiento is old school — a reminder of the era of MMA only a handful of years ago when being a full-time fighter was a luxury.

“I’m doing it as a hobby,” Sarmiento said of his fighting career. “Living in Hawaii, you have to work and train at the same time, so it’s really hard.”

Looking back at his most memorable moments, Sarmiento recounted a Muay Thai tournament where he two fights in one night. But when asked what opponent really tested his physical and mental toughness the most, Sarmiento singled out his five-round X-1 title win over The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 alum Richie Whitson.

“Richie Whitson pushed me to the limit,” Sarmiento said. “We went at it for five rounds, it was a back and forth fight. It really tested my heart forced me to a different level.”

On March 12, Sarmiento will defend his X-1 title against young upstart Max Holloway (3-1). Given all of the styles Sarmiento has encountered in his decade of MMA training, he isn’t too concerned about putting together a specific gameplan.

“I just go out there and pretty much have fun and do my own thing,” Sarmiento told “I go out there and react. Every fight is always different.”

Sarmiento admitted that fighting near home in Hawaii brings a little extra pressure, as does facing young up-and-comers hoping to use a victory over him to launch their own careers. However, having that target on his back also motivates him.

“Back home, everyone wants to fight me,” he said. “I’m like, bring it. It makes me train harder and fight harder. They want a challenge, so that gets me [fired up].”

His X-1 title defense is the only thing on his mind right now. Still, even after all of the battles he’s been through, Sarmiento is hungry for another shot at the sport’s big stage and a chance to get his dues for years of training and dedication.

“Of course I went to get back and fight in a big show, you know,”” he said. “Of course I’d want to fight in the UFC.”

X-1 “Champions” will stream live on online PPV for $9.95. For more details, go to the X-1 events webpage. The fight card includes three other world title bouts, including UFC veteran Falaniko “Niko” Vitale against Dylan Clay.


Harris asked to pass along his thanks to 808 Top Team and all of his family and friends for their support.

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