The prolific Paul Jacob strikes again, this time asking Helen Harper some questions about her background, her time on TUF & much more.
Hi Helen, thank you for taking some time out to answer some questions for us, we really appreciate it.
Anyone that watched TUF 23 knows your inspirational back story for starting MMA, but what made you choose MMA?
I don’t really feel like I consciously chose MMA. I just sort of fell in to it, and as with everything I do, I do it to the best of my ability. MMA has become an addiction for me now and I can’t imagine my life without it!
You mentioned that there are two sides to you, Helen and your alter ego, “Hellraiser”. How do enter the state of mind to become the Hellraiser?
I think I just blank out anything that’s going on outside of the cage, know that I’m there to do a job, which is to get my hand raised. I like that for that fifteen (or less) minutes, nothing else matters. Not your job, your house, your car, your bank balance: It’s all about the fight.
You’ve fought professionally in Guam, Malaysia and of course the UK. Where is your favourite place to fight and why?
I love traveling but probably my favourite fight was in Notting Hill because although I was the underdog and my opponent had most of the room in fans I had 11 people with me and that’s the most that have ever come to see me fight at one time!
You tried out for TUF 20 but were turned down. Did that spur you on or was it hard to take?
When I tried out for season 20 I was extremely inexperienced. It was way too soon in reality but at the time it felt like the right thing to do. As I said earlier I’ve always tried to be the best I can be at whatever I put my mind to so even though it was probably very premature, I felt like I had a shot. It turns out that having auditioned for season 20, the producers already knew me and it helped my application for season 23!
Joanna seemed to get bad coverage throughout the season. What was it like training with the champion?
I absolutely loved her. I find her incredibly inspiring and her work ethic is very similar to my own. We had some amazing positive chats and she really helped me to believe in myself.
As you mentioned on your blog, you packed for Vegas in 5 days. Whenever I go on holiday, I usually forget something (not usually helped by packing the day before!). Did you forget to pack anything?
To be honest we were given everything we could possibly dream of and more in the house so if I did forget anything I wouldn’t have noticed! The production team of the ultimate fighter are fantastic and the show is so extremely well run.
I know that Jamie Moyle is someone you were in contact with previously, outside of her have you kept in touch with anyone else from TUF 23?
I have kept in touch with everyone from the cast, I really got on with everyone so there is no reason not to. I talk to the red team more often as we have our own group chat on Facebook but it’s been great to hear what everyone has achieved since the show.
I’m always fascinated by the psychology of the Ultimate Fighter and always ask TUF alumni this question because it seems so surreal to me – What was it like living in a house with the very people you are going to have to punch?
To be honest, it didn’t really bother me. I only had the one fight in the house but Lanch and I had breakfast together before the fight and shared a Nutella bagel after the fight. There was no tension at all, we all knew we had a job to do, and we all knew there would be one winner and one learner after each fight. Everyone helped and supported each other regardless of team affiliation.
What’s the most valuable thing you learnt from your TUF experience?
As I was injured quite a bit I didn’t train as much as I’d have liked to. For that reason I think I learnt more about myself and my ability to adapt to different situations than anything else.
You’ve said previously that being on TUF didn’t help you get paying sponsors. Has that changed?
Not in the slightest! MMA isn’t big enough to be mainstream in the UK so finding paying sponsors is always going to be hard. Although there are some amazing small companies and I am very lucky with the sponsors I have there is only so much they can do.
You and I are both big fans of Roxanne Modafferi, she was the first person in MMA that gave me an interview, God knows why! You’ve met her and been shopping with her. What was it like meeting and spending time with an idol?
To be honest very surreal. Roxanne was one of the first female MMA fighters I had both heard of and became a fan of and I liked her especially because she doesn’t “look like a fighter”. I now class her more as a friend that I look up to than an idol but she will never stop being an inspiration to me.
Aside from bacon, what is your diet and nutrition regime like outside of competition and does it drastically change in the lead up to a fight?
I eat fairly clean regardless of what I have coming up, although I do love to bake so whenever there is an excuse to make cakes, cookies and brownies I do. I try not to make them too much because it doesn’t help my willpower!
Who is your inspiration in life and MMA?
My inspiration in life is my mum. Although we have not always been close, we have now become so close I can trust her with anything. She constantly works extremely hard and lives a healthy lifestyle, two things I hope I emulate within my life. My MMA inspiration are my coach and team at Urban Kings and Legacy BJJ. They have brought me through some tough times and continue to inspire me every day.
You specialise in both Boxing and BJJ. Do you prefer stand up or ground work?
I much prefer grappling – I feel more confident on the ground. That said, I like both and the bonus with MMA is that if you get frustrated with one you can always change to the other!
In your opinion, what separates you from other fighters in your division?
My determination, and my refusal to give up. I may not be the most technical fighter but as you have seen I will keep going and going until that final bell rings.
What’s next for the Hellraiser?
Hopefully I’ll get a few more fights this year and then the UFC will come calling. It’s kind of hard to plan things around uncontrollable factors… But in an ideal world I’d like to get a few more wins under my belt before I get that call!!
Quick Fire Questions
McGregor or Diaz? I actually love both of them. But I’m going with Diaz on this one..
Who’s your dream opponent and why? I’ll fight anyone at straw weight, not fussy as long as they come to fight!
What is the best moment of your career? Winning the elimination fight to get into the TUF house.
What is the embarrassing moment? Probably my post fight interview a few years back after I got a first round TKO. I sounded like a complete idiot after but I think it was just all the adrenaline from the fight!
What is the worst moment? Losing my fight to Lanchana in the house. I’m still gutted about that.
And finally do you FeelTheTip? The tip scares me…