Harvick's New Horizon

Kevin Harvick

UFC fighter Donald Cerrone, who is represented by Kevin Harvick Inc., presented Harvick with a UFC belt earlier this year. (Photo: Getty Images)

After absorbing a flurry of punches, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone dropped his opponent with a stunning left jab. Cerrone quickly pounced, threw his foe on his back and put him in a choke hold near the edge of the cage.

On the other side of the cage sat Kevin Harvick, UFC President Dana White and Shaquille O’Neal.

“Whoa, this is a pretty cool lineup,’’ Cerrone recalls thinking.

He gave them quite a show. Cerrone forced his opponent to tap out in front of them and then enjoyed Harvick’s reaction.

“You just see them like “Ahhhh!’ that yell and that cheer (that) is from the inside, someone you know and interact with, it’s a different kind of a cheer,’’ Cerrone said.

Harvick is more than a friend to Cerrone. He’s Cerrone’s manager. Since eliminating its race teams, Kevin Harvick Inc. has focused on marketing athletes and entertainers. KHI represents Harvick, Jeff Burton, Cerrone, PGA golfer Jason Gore and country singers Jake Owen and Matt Stillwell. KHI also is looking to expand.

“For us it’s really just about the right situation,’’ Harvick said. “That’s kind of how we’ve evolved. When the right opportunity pops up, you take advantage of it and figure how to make it work. It’s how our race teams were first started with me wanting to win a Truck race and Tony (Stewart) wanting to run a Nationwide race. It evolved into what it was at KHI.’’

The diversity in clients allows KHI to spread its sponsors into NASCAR, UFC, PGA and even concerts. Among the brands on Cerrone’s shorts when he fought last month was Budweiser, primary sponsor for Harvick’s Sprint Cup team.

The foray into UFC happened by accident, though. Cerrone and Harvick met at Texas Motor Speedway when Cerrone was there for a sponsor. Their casual conversation led to KHI signing Cerrone last June.

What does a UFC fighter need with representing?

Josh Jones, KHI’s director of business development, helps align the fights for Cerrone, who is ranked fifth in the lightweight division. KHI also helps with sponsorship for Cerrone.

Unlike a race team, there’s only Cerrone, so really what does he need?

“I’m the car,’’ Cerrone said, equating himself to NASCAR in terms of sponsorship. “I have five coaches that all get paid and your nutritionist and your sports and conditioning.’’

That funding and KHI’s guidance allows Cerrone to focus on fighting instead of worrying about other issues that could take away from his training and quest to fight for a UFC belt.

Cerrone has fought twice this year. He has said he wanted to fight six times this year. His next bout comes July 16 against No. 7 Jim Miller, headlining a UFC event in Atlantic City, N.J., Miller’s hometown. Harvick plans to be there.

Whether Harvick is near the cage remains to be seen. He admits watching Cerrone fight from there last month was “nerve-racking.

“Dana White invited us to sit down with him and watch Donald’s fight, and I was like I don’t know if I want to sit down here and watch this because you never know how those deals will go,’’ Harvick said. “This time he was on the winning side of it and everything worked out. (But) I get nervous, man.’’

Cerrone says there will be nothing to worry about in his next fight. Asked what the July 16 fight means to him, Cerrone says: “(Butt)-whipping, that’s for sure.’’

 

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