UFC heavyweight Walt Harris lost his first fight since the death of his step-daughter Aniah as Alistair Overeem scored a second–round stoppage.
Harris, 36, was fighting just six months after Aniah was murdered and almost knocked Overeem out in the opening round after dropping the legendary kickboxer.
But the Dutchman – who turned 40 after the fight – kept his composure and survived the round before hurting Harris with a head kick in the second as he went on to force the finish.
After the win, Overeem said: “Pandemic or no pandemic you just stay focused, it has been a long ride but I love it.
“This was a long camp but I love to train so it is no punishment.
“I was cut in the first round, Walt is a strong guy but this is a five-round main event and I am prepared for that.
“I landed a high kick and ended it with ground and pound. I want to fight again later this year and see if there is maybe one more shot at the title.”
Harris revealed he was inspired to fight again in order to honour his step-daughter, and got off to the perfect start in Florida.
After landing a big left hand Overeem was dropped to the canvas but Harris later rushed in with a head kick and was taken down as a result.
Overeem controlled the rest of the round as he cleared his head going into the second.
Despite Harris threatening with his boxing a perfectly timed kick dropped the “Big Ticket” before Overeem ended the fight with some heavy ground and pound.
After the loss, Harris said: “The UFC have been amazing through this process, my wife and my family, I’m so grateful.
“We owe you guys everything, thank you so much.
“I want to thank my gym, my coaches Chris Conolley I love you so much, brother. He was with me every day, man, through everything.
“Lastly, I want to thank my community Homewood, I’m sorry I didn’t get the W for you tonight. You’ve been there for my family and I’m so grateful.
“To the fans, I know you can’t be here, but watching at home I’m sorry I’ll be back better, I promise you. You haven’t seen the last of the Big Ticket.”
DEATH OF ANIAH
Harris’ 19-year-old step-daughter was reported missing last October, with UFC president Dana White and light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones contributing to the $100,000 reward for information.
The Auburn police department then released CCTV footage from a convenience shop on November 6 as they presented a suspect in the disappearance, later identified as Ibraheem Yazeed, a repeat offender.
Yazeed was captured two days later as an out-of-state fugitive in Escambia County and was brought back to Auburn.
He was charged with first-degree kidnapping in an Alabama court on November 20 and remains in jail without bond.
The Alabama district attorney announced on November 25 that they had found the remains of a girl they believe to be Aniah in Macon County.
Aniah’s remains were identified two days later.
Police reports confirmed on November 28 that the body found was Harris’ step daughter with an autopsy revealing she was killed by a gunshot wound.
The district attorney would then announce that two counts of capital murder and kidnapping charges were filed against Yazeed.
A preliminary hearing was moved to April but faced further postponment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The hearing is currently scheduled for June 3 with District Attorney Hughes’s office seeking the death penalty.