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Walt Harris’ Biggest UFC Challenge Pales In Comparison To His Greatest Family Tragedy

The inconceivable abduction and murder of his daughter is what fuels his return this Saturday

UFC Heavyweight Walt Harris has been patiently waiting for this moment.

Unspeakable tragedy hit his family late last year when his step-daughter, Aniah Blanchard was murdered. It threw off his quarter-four fighting plans and sent the entire world in a tailspin.

However, the UFC is back now during the coronavirus pandemic. Harris headlines the third event at UFC’s residency in Jacksonville, Florida against Alistair Overeem where there have been no fans to watch the return of combat sports.

“(In my gym) we kind of made a pact that we would keep everything as clean and sanitary as possible,” said Harris via phone call. “Keep our bodies clean and follow the protocols as far as social distancing out of the gym. Really it wasn’t too hard. We all stayed healthy and made sure we took care of each other during training and we got our work done and put in a good camp.”

Due to the uncertain nature of the pandemic, Harris didn’t know when he was going to fight and had to stay ready for the call.

“Coach was like, ‘all right take a few days and we’re going to dial it back’ and then when we fond out we may fight we dialed it back up and we prayed for the best and it came through. I don’t feel like anything distract my normal progress for going into a fight, I feel like I’m right where I need to be. I feel stronger, faster, and everything so I’m ready.”

With fight dates that kept coming and going, Harris felt like a fight against Alistair Overeem might be his version of Moby Dick’s white whale. It was reminiscent of the fight that still has never materialized with Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson.

“I really did like for a minute and it was crazy because my coach was joking about how this was like Ferguson and Khabib 2.0., and they kept offering us different people it was just weird but we stayed the course and the main goal was to make sure I was ready. That’s kind of how we approach every fight, we don’t worry who we’re fighting we worry about how I’m going to perform and what I need to be doing so we ready.”

However, Harris is fighting Alistair Overeem this Saturday on ESPN. Overeem is a Dutch mixed martial artist and former kickboxer. He is a former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion, K-1 World Grand Prix Champion. One of only two fighters to hold world titles in both MMA and K-1 kickboxing at the same time.

“When I’m working in the gym and I’m training and preparing you know I’m a student of the game and I’m a fan of the game so when I’m watching I’m always putting myself in these different situations to see how I would fare. It’s just like a dream come true that I actually get to fight him.

“I remember when I first came in, heavyweights were almost 300 lbs coming in to fight. Now guys are streamlining and the guys are more athletic and they got good striking and they’re more well-rounded so its kind of cool to see the evolution of the sport take place right before your eyes and be apart of it. I think that’s always been the challenge for me is to try to stay ahead of the curve and make sure I’m learning and growing at the pace I need. It’s kind of cool to see everybody trying to get in there and be willing to take these fights and put on some shows for the fans.”

The fact the fight is taking place in Florida and not the mysterious Fight Island that UFC president Dana White has sequestered is still a revelation. The UFC head honcho has the unidentified island on standby in case he needs to do a rogue maneuver around pandemic restrictions.

“When I heard Dana (White) did that man, I texted Dana and was like, “boss, you are quintessential; you are the CEO of bosses.” That’s the biggest boss move I’ve ever seen and I’m definitely hoping to get an opportunity to fight on Fight Island, that would be like a dream come true to be apart of that. That’s historic. I’m trying to go in there and do my thing with Overeem, get in and get out, then turn around and see if Dan will let me fly out to the island.”

However, all eyes are on Harris as he closes out the UFC’s trial run back at combat sports.

“It gives us an opportunity to reach another demographic of people who may have heard of it but actually get to watch it and they have no other distractions. There’s no other sports going on and its an honor to be apart of that. I think about that every day when I’m training. I want to put on for the UFC because I’m so proud to be apart of it. I’m so grateful and thankful for everybody in the organization from the top to the bottom. Literally the entire world is going to be tuned in.”

Fighting for more than himself, Harris knows this event is important not just for him but to the world at large. He’s looking to show the fans another athletic level.

“I’ll be successful because it’s my time man. I’m hot as a firecracker right now, I’m in my prime, I’m learning and growing by leaps and bounds…every me is a different me when I step in that cage. I got weapons and I’m dangerous from a lot of different places that I’ve been blessed not to have to show anybody yet. When I’m put in those situations I think that people will have the chance to see a side of me as a fighter that they’ve never seen and I’m on one right now.”

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