PERRINE – A crowd of hundreds filtered into a neighbor’s backyard expecting to see something brutal: bloodied noses and punched-out teeth, blackened eyes and broken jaws, as stardom-hungry pugilists pummel each other on a manicured lawn.
A man in a red mohawk referees the action inside a 12-foot-square ring, enforcing the two explicit rules: No hits to the back of the head. No jabs to the testicles.
When the winner celebrates, a third rule becomes clear: Know where the phone cameras are. For although a crowd of 200 watches this day, hundreds of thousands more might watch on a blurry video on the Internet, where celebrity is democratic and pain can lead to fame.
Backyard fighting’s been around as long as there have been backyards. But it’s only since the advent of viral Web videos that recordings of everyday people clawing at each other has been a launching pad for stardom. Exhibit A is Kimbo Slice, the scary man from Perrine whose footage beating people up made him one of the most hyped Mixed Martial Arts fighters in the country.
Now another Perrine man is hoping to organize this gritty underbelly of the cyberworld and transform it into a multimillion dollar, multimedia industry.
The cyberworld knows him as Dada 5000. His mother named him Dhafir Harris. He’s a little Don King, a little P.T. Barnum, a little Justin Bieber.
Born and raised in Perrine, Harris, 33, is a lean, mean-looking promoting machine – 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds with a 650-pound benchpress. His big beard protrudes from his chin like the edge of a battle-ax. His toes and fingernails are lacquered black. His muscular frame is shrouded with tattoos: Two boxing gloves behind his left earlobe, “No Fear” inscribed on his arm, a “No to Drugs” illustration on his left pec.
His thumbs, he believes, are even mightier than his fists: He promotes through text messages to the 1,000-plus people listed in his Blackberry. The fights happen before sunset, so there’ll be enough light to gather click-worthy footage on YouTube.
Some videos have already gotten as many as 200,000 hits on the site, though many have gotten tens of thousands. The producers of the acclaimed local film “Cocaine Cowboys” are releasing a documentary about him. Local and national media alike have dropped by. Telemundo produced a documentary about Rene “Level” Martinez, a mixed-martial-arts fighter who got his start in Harris’ mom’s backyard.
While not the most conventional way to help a community, Harris has convinced himself that he’s doing a service.