Walt Harris Talks UFC Return After Tragic Loss Of His Daughter
Walt Harris is fighting for the first time since the tragic murder of his daughter Aniah Blanchard. Now, leading into this main event bout, he opens up about the situation he has overcame to make this return.
Last October troubling news broke that Aniah went missing, in Alabama. Subsequent surveillance footage was released and arrests were made, and a massive social media campaign of support began sweeping through the MMA community. Unfortunately this was to no avail, as the 19-year old was tragically found dead about a month later.
When this horrific situation was happening, Aniah’s step father, UFC heavyweight Walt Harris was clearly distraught. He withdrew from his scheduled bout at the time, to the surprise of nobody. He needed this time to grieve, and be with his family.
Now Walt is ready to make his return to action, this Saturday, against Alistair Overeem. Leading up to the bout, he opened up about his mindset coming back from this life altering situation. Speaking at a virtual media day for this weekend’s UFC on ESPN 8 card, he was painfully honest about how difficult this has been. (h/t MMAJunkie)
“I went through a dark, dark period as you know,” Harris told reporters. “You could probably already imagine. I felt myself slipping in the opposite direction of what I set out to be as a man and as a father.”
Harris went on to detail how it was his wife that pushed him to get back in the gym. Ultimately he credits her for his return this weekend. That, and coming to peace with the whole messed up situation.
“I had a talk with my wife one day, and she was like, ‘Why don’t you start back training and get your mind off of it?’” Harris said. “There was a point where, honestly, thinking about anything but my daughter was wrong. I battled that so hard. I was like, ‘If I go back to fighting, am I not thinking for her? Am I not doing the right thing by her?’
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My sweet baby girl… I just wanna thank you for helping me change my life for the better… For teaching me how to be a man and a better father! For being my biggest fan win, lose , or draw! For always knowing what to say to put a smile on my face and lift me up when I was down and wanted to give up. You light up my world I’m so many ways. This pain is unbearable… I know you want me to be strong but it so hard baby it so hard. I’m gonna find away I promise you I will. Right now nothing makes sense and I’m so lost. I just want you back. I hope I made you proud… I’m gonna keep going daddy just needs time. I love you so much. Look after us like you always did. We need you now more than ever. My lil mighty mighty tiger is a angel now. I love you baby girl forever and ever!
“I prayed about it,” Harris said. “I could hear her telling me, ‘Daddy, I want you to go back. I want you to fight. This is what we worked so hard (for). I sacrificed so much. Mom sacrificed so much. You sacrificed so much to get to where you are. I would be more upset with you if you stopped fighting.’
“That’s when I went back in the gym and started getting back in shape. I put a goal out there of when I wanted to fight, just to kind of give myself some incentive and motivation outside of what I already had.”
Words can not describe how terrible the situation Walt Harris and his family have had to go through. Win or lose on Saturday night, it is good to see him back in the Octagon.