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Last October 2019, Walt Harris, a professional heavyweight mixed martial artist faced a bigger challenge than any opponent in the Octagon.

His step-daughter, Aniah Blanchard was reported missing on October 24, 2019, in Auburn, Alabama. After finding her car, police suspected foul play and their suspicions were unfortunately correct.

In early November, a suspect, Ibraheem Yazeed, a repeat offender, was arrested. In late November, they found Aniah’s body with a gunshot wound.

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Walt’s last fight was July 2019 before the death of his loved one and before COVID-19 took over the world.

“My coach did a really great job of making sure everything was kept clean,” said Harris. “We had a system of literally we trained and everybody went home. There was no extra movement.”

The Reem

Harris was expected to face the legendary Alistair Overeem on December 7, 2019, at UFC on ESPN 7. However, Harris pulled out on November 1, 2019, due to the ongoing search for his missing step-daughter.

By April 9, Dana White, the president of UFC announced that the fight was postponed to May 16, 2020, at UFC on ESPN.

“Camp was a tad bit broken up but it really wasn’t an issue. I think we broke it up mainly to give my body a break with the ups and downs of thinking you are going to fight or not going to fight. We were grinding super hard in Vegas for two weeks and then we found out there was no fight there was a pandemic so we shut it down.”

This Saturday, Harris re-enters the Octagon to face legendary Dutch kickboxer and MMA star, Alistair Overeem. The fight has title implications, especially if Harris wins in spectacular fashion.

“I’ve been following The Reem since he was in PRIDE. He was fighting at 170 lbs and I’ve watched him progress, watched him move up and down and around and the guy’s been everywhere and fought everybody. I’ve always saw myself fighting these guys.

“I respect him but i’m trying to take him out, you feel me? I’m a competitor so its my time, its my time, its my turn to shine and that’s what it is. I’m going in there looking to get the finish and putting on a show like I always do.”

The World Watches

With the UFC being one of the first sports organizations to resume operations and the first in combat sports, Harris knows the value of this opportunity.

“Its dope man. It feels like the sport is finally beginning to get recognized the way the sport needs to be recognized on that stage with the NFL and the NBA. I think it’s cool to see Tom Brady tweeting during the fight. Patrick Mahomes and all these different star athletes tweeting about the fights that are going on, I think that’s pretty cool.”

Harris enters the Octagon this Saturday in Jacksonville for glory and redemption for his step-daughter.

“I got my daughter right here with me so there’s a difference. It’s not him just fighting me, he’s fighting something else too. It’s going to be a fight night and I can’t wait.