"Basically," Jonathan Harris told MMAjunkie.com, "I was homeless."
He approached the gym owner. He would have to quit, he said, because he needed to find more steady work and a place to live above spending the money to train on a possibly promising MMA opportunity.
"He basically told me, 'I see potential in you, and I think you can make it,'" Harris said. "'If you clean the gym and scrub the floors, you can train here for me, and we'll figure out how you can live.'
Harris has made the most of it. With a 6-1 MMA record, Harris is now preparing for his next opportunity with a new three-fight Legacy contract.
"Things didn't get messy until I was about 11," Harris said,
During his freshman year of high school in Texas, he was sent to a juvenile detention facility for a possession of marijuana conviction. He spent about a year incarcerated.
By the time he was 16, Harris slept with a vodka bottle next to his bed because of addiction to alcohol. At 17, he had a realization.
"I looked in the mirror, and there was this 105-pound kid,' " Harris said. "I didn't like who I was becoming."
Harris' first athletic action was lifting weights. He said he reached as high as 240 pounds.
In 2006 Harris looked into hooking on with an MMA school.
By 2008, he took his first amateur fight, a loss. Then he lost another amateur fight, and by the time he finished his third amateur fight and earned his first win, his poor job prospects and money troubles were significant.
It was then he got the cleaning-for-training deal that he says saved his new livelihood.
In October 2009, he made his professional debut, and he won his first three pro fights, helping him get a place of his own and continue his training.
Since his only loss, he has won two Legacy Fighting Championship bouts to move out of despair and into the career he dreamed about in his childhood backyard.