BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - On April 11, UFC Heavyweight Walt Harris will step back into the Octagon to face Alistair Overeem. It will be Walt’s first professional fight since the death of his daughter, Aniah Blanchard.
I caught up with him at the gym where he trains to get the thoughts and emotions as this 6-5, 250-lb. Ultimate Fighter, navigates a difficult comeback for many reasons.
Every punch, every kick, every drop of sweat has a purpose for UFC Heavyweight, Walt Harris.
Not that there wasn't a purpose before, but training for his first professional fight since the death of his daughter Aniah Blanchard, has taken on a far different meaning.
It has become therapeutic.
Walt said, "Yeah, it was very tough to even decide to want to fight was a thing I struggled with, but I got a good support system around me and people were letting me know you know it's ok. She would've wanted you to, and I had to really dig deep to find that because I know she was my biggest fan, so I had to get it going."
Chris Conolley is a trainer at Spartan FitnessMMA in Homewood. Conolley said, "Walt's the kind of guy who lights up a whole room when he walks into it, you know his smile and energy. And I think that being here with the guys and the team and being around the gym is his happy place."
Walt Harris was on the upswing of his fighting career, before the horrific tragedy last fall that no parent is prepared to endure. He took a lot of time off and he knows it's no secret he has a long road to get back into fighting shape. But as faces challenges emotionally, mentally and physically, he's not alone.
Walt said, “There are times when I’m like, I don’t know if I can handle this right now and I just hear her like, ‘Dad it’s ok.’ That’s what she would always say to me. I have like video recordings of her when she was like little saying, ‘It’s ok daddy, it’s ok.’ So I just hear her voice and I keep powering through.”
Harris went on to say, "I want a title."
I asked him if he visualized what that moment will be like? Harris said, “Yeah, when I dream about it, there’s tears, you know, overwhelmed.”
He doesn't deny having some pent up aggression for the person currently charged with capital murder for his daughter's death. But he says it would be foolish and undisciplined to use that type of rage in the octagon. In fact, perhaps his most powerful purpose isn't in the form of a punch, but rather a inexplicable pardon.
Walt’s first fight back is April 11 in Portland. Also on the same fight card, out of the same Spartan Fitness MMA gym: former Alabama defensive star, Eryk Anders.
You can watch my full interview with Walt Harris right here: