'It was a dark period': UFC heavyweight Walt Harris ready for octagon return after tragic death of stepdaughter
Harris will return to the cage and compete in the UFC Fight Night main event against veteran Alistair Overeem on Saturday night at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
It will be the first time stepping into the octagon since Harris' stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard went missing last October and was found dead with a gunshot wound the following month.Also on rt.com UFC star’s stepdaughter confirmed dead as authorities identify remains
The fight was originally scheduled to be in Portland, Oregon, on April 11, but the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When Harris makes the walk to the octagon on Saturday night, his mind will no doubt be filled with thoughts of his stepdaughter.
It’s a walk he thought at times he wouldn’t be able to make again, but he pushed himself because he knew she would demand it.
After Aniah went missing on October 23, the MMA community came together seemingly like never before in an effort to spread awareness and locate the 19-year-old.
But, after weeks of searching, her remains were tragically found.
Devastated, Harris understandably took time away from MMA and his scheduled fight against Overeem in December was cancelled as a result.
That’s when Harris said he slipped into the darkness.
The 36-year-old, who is unbeaten in his past four fights, said he was so distraught that his faith in God was shattered and he initially considered never fighting again.
“There were days I didn’t want to wake up,” he told ESPN.
“As a father, there are so many other emotions attached to it, a husband, there’s so many more emotions attached to it, especially since my wife has already lost a child in the past.
“So I’m trying to navigate those waters and be what she needs me to be while I’m still hurting, myself.
“And I think that’s the part that may get lost in the shuffle, on the exterior, people see me as this strong, tough guy, but inside I’m hurting.”
After a lengthy time away, Harris said he is using this weekend's fight as motivation to fight for his daughter.
Harris’ fights almost always end in a finish - in fact, all 13 of his wins have come by KO.
And this, according to Harris, makes it a “dangerous mixture” for his opponent.
“I look at it like I’ve seen the worst thing a human can possibly see, so there’s not a thing a man in a cage can ever do to me,” he continued.
“I’ve never been afraid of anybody, ever, so you add that on top of fuel of, you know, I’m fighting for my daughter, I’m fighting against myself in some ways, battling to keep pushing.
“It’s a dangerous mixture for an opponent - I’ll say it like that.”
On his return to the octagon, primed for Saturday night, Harris says he is continuing his career in the UFC for one reason.
“It’s not about fighting for me anymore, it’s about fighting for her,” he concluded.
“I miss her every single day and I think that that’s the part I’m dealing with now, is trying to maintain for everybody else.
“It’s a challenge to get ready for the fight, but, you know I’ve done this for 12 years.
“And just like Aniah said, it’s going to be ok.”Also on rt.com Brazilian UFC 'pioneer' Gadelha drawing inspiration from Zhang-Joanna epic as she aims to restore herself as strawweight threat