In the history of sports, there has been a storyline that at times, things are bigger than the event being played. On Saturday, in what can only be described as one of the most brave acts in recent sports history, Walt Harris will return to the UFC after suffering a tragedy that no human should ever go through.
In what became a nationwide story last year Harris and his wife Angela suffered a horrific tragedy when their 19-year old daughter Aniah Blanchard was missing, and on November 25, she was confirmed dead. To respect the Harris family, you can read about the tragedy elsewhere, as this is meant to be a column of hope and thanks.
In an open letter to Walt Harris and his family, I personally have some things I’d like to say publicly.
When I made the transition over to cover combat sports, I did so because I really felt connected to the human interest stories of each and every fighter. Everyone has their favorite teams and hometowns that steer their fanhood, but I was drawn to people, not teams. Fighters are exactly what they sign up to be in every sense of the word, but superstardom is never guaranteed. In fact, you’re supposed to only be as good as your last fight, but what if you live every day fighting for more?
That is Walt Harris. His record is one that shows he’s able to come back from early adversity and thrive when given the opportunity. Not all fight fans will know Harris, and that’s okay. This sport, more than ever during a pandemic, needs a fighter like Walt Harris, this sport needs a symbol of strength like the Harris family.
The tragedy his family suffered through is disgusting and heartbreaking, but Harris now serves as a symbol of hope, no matter what the result is. There are no words to describe a parent who has to get back to normal life after losing a child, never mind one of those parents being a professional mixed martial arts fighter.
Saturday’s main event is not just a heavyweight matchup, it’s a sign that even through the worst of times, we all need to keep fighting. A memorable moment like the return of Walt Harris during a pandemic and after a horrific personal tragedy is something everyone can understand.
To the Harris family, your strength is unmatched, and when Walt Harris takes on Alistair Overeem, there will be no doubting he’s fighting for a greater purpose.
Maybe even in these unsettling times, as tough as it is for Harris, he’s a symbol of hope for the world fighting through COVID-19, and even more so, he shows the world what MMA is all about.
SportsCenter: Featured did an incredible job telling the story of tragedy and triumph, and it’s a must watch for everyone before the event starts.
Dana White is quoted as saying we will find out who Walt Harris is when he steps back inside the cage for this fight, but we all know who he is. Walt Harris is a father, husband, fighter, and a symbol of hope to keep pushing forward.
To the entire Harris family, we all commend you on your strength, and as the UFC welcomes him back with open arms, Walt Harris has a task at hand, and he’s fighting for a greater purpose.
On behalf of the fighting world, thank you for showing strength, resilience, and being an image of hope.